Treatment of prostate cancer has been found to increase the risks of dementia. More specifically, US government-funded research determined that the hormone-blocking treatment has ties to Alzheimer’s disease. Because these new results are from a renowned national cancer database, they are being taken seriously. Men with prostate cancer were tracked for an average of 8 years and among 154,000 patients, 13% developed Alzheimer’s. For those that did not receive the hormone-blocking treatment, only 9% developed the same disease. It was also determined that the risk for strokes in these patients was higher.
Dr. Sumanta Pal who is a prostate cancer expert with the American Society of Clinical Oncology was not involved in the study but maintains that these results are reliable and extremely informative. While more research is to be done, these results are, at the very least, informative for when patients are choosing a course of cancer treatment. The data from the National Cancer Institute database covers 30% of the US population. The study was focused on men in their 70s with local or advanced prostate cancer. These men were diagnosed between the years of 1996 and 2003 but were followed until 2013 showing good longitudinal data.
Hormone-blocking treatment often involves drug injections or implants, but sometimes involves the removal of the testes which reduces the levels of testosterone that promotes the growth of prostate cancer. Most men who receive this treatment are in their 70s or older as they may not be healthy enough to receive alternative cancer treatments such as surgery to remove the prostate or radiation treatments. So far, researchers have been unable to determine why prostate cancer treatment is linked to dementia, but they have tracked that it does. They have also related the treatment to diabetes, heart disease, and depression which can also be linked to dementia.
Due to these risks and because dementia is very difficult on patients and their families, doctors are recommending hormone-blocking treatment for patients that are older or who have shorter life-spans. It is important that patients are made aware of the potential risks and are making informed decisions when choosing treatment. While the research does not concretely prove that the treatment indeed causes dementia, the data demands that caution be taken and also that further research be done in the area for more conclusive results and for further preventative measures to be taken.