Cancer and Alzheimer's disease (AD) are common diseases of aging and share many risk factors. Surprisingly, however, epidemiologic data from several recent independent cohort studies suggest that there may be an inverse association between these diseases.
To determine the relationship between history of cancer and odds of dementia proximate to death and neuropathological indices of AD.
Using data from two separate clinical-pathologic cohort studies of aging and AD, the Religious Orders Study (ROS) and the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP), we compared odds of AD dementia proximate to death among participants with and without a history of cancer. We then examined the relation of history of cancer with measures of AD pathology at autopsy, i.e., paired helical filament tau (PHFtau) neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid-β load.
Participants reporting a history of cancer had significantly lower odds of AD (OR 0.70 [0.55-0.89], p = 0.0040) proximate to death as compared to participants reporting no prior history of cancer. The results remained significant after adjusting for multiple risk factors including age, sex, race, education, and presence of an APOEɛ4 allele. At autopsy, participants with a history of cancer had significantly fewer PHFtau tangles (p < 0.001) than participants without a history of cancer, but similar levels of amyloid-β.
Cancer survivors have reduced odds of developing AD and a lower burden of neurofibrillary tangle deposition.