A history of some cancers is associated with a decreased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, and new research suggests chemotherapy may be the link.
Researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System analyzed health records of 3 and a half million veterans over age 65.
Having had most types of cancer was associated with a reduced risk for later developing Alzheimer's. The lower risk was most significant among survivors of liver and pancreatic cancer. There was no link for prostate cancer and melanoma.
When investigators looked at cancer treatments -- they found it was chemotherapy but not radiation that appeared to offer the apparent protective benefit.
"The message is not: 'should we use chemotherapy as a therapeutic for Alzheimer's disease?' The message is really focused on 'what does chemotherapy do when it's systemically introduced into the body and in the brain' and 'can we learn from that for potential therapies for Alzheimer's disease?'" said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D. of the Alzheimer's Association.
Another study presented at the Alzheimer's conference suggests the Type II Diabetes drug Metformin may also reduce the risk for dementia.