Greater of Two Evils: Cancer or Alzheimer's?

Who'd ever have thought it?  If you have cancer, you might never have Alzheimer's.  And vice versa.

But a new study has found that "older people with Alzheimer’s disease are less likely to also have cancer, and older people with cancer are less likely to also have Alzheimer’s disease," according to a story at newswise.com.

“Since the number of cases of both Alzheimer’s disease and cancer increase exponentially as people age, understanding the mechanisms behind this relationship may help us better develop new treatments for both diseases,” newswise.com quotes study author Massimo Musicco, MD, of the National Research Council of Italy in Milan.

A little over 200,000 people age 60 and older in northern Italy were studied during a six-year period. "During that time, 21,451 people developed cancer and 2,832 people developed Alzheimer’s disease," newswise.com reports.

A total of 161 people had both cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, but, based on statistics for the general population, 281 people would have been predicted to have cancer and 246 for Alzheimer’s disease. "Therefore, the risk of cancer was cut in half for people with Alzheimer’s disease, and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease was reduced by 35 percent for people with cancer," the story notes.

Now, I've had cancer and Alzheimer's is one of the other diseases I'm most frightened of.  So wouldn't it be wonderful if having one precluded the other?  Still, in a perfect world, no one would have either.  But I guess cancer and Alzheimer's are protective.  Weird to think of them, two of the most dreaded diseases, in that way.




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