Brain Aging & Cancer Treatments

Finally, research is proving and being published to show that chemotherapy can possibly do more harm than good.

Chemotherapy treatments supposedly work, but those same factors helping them to eradicate tumors might also accelerate aging processes in the brain, according to new research.  Maria Cohut gives us more information in an article that was fact checked by Jasmin Collier.

Medical News Today previously reported a study explaining an experience called chemo brain that affects many people undergoing cancer.  This is especially true of breast cancer treatment.  This occurs during the treatment and may last for a long time afterwards.  Those who experience this, report a loss of quality in cognitive abilities that interferes with daily life.

There was also another study showing the effects of chemo, along with those of cancer itself, impacting numerous cognitive abilities that include the memory.  Researchers from the University of California delved deeper into this issue in a new study by working with women who went through the breast cancer treatment.  They reported seeing present markers of biological aging associated with decreased cognitive function.  This study can be found in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society that does suggest the treatments do accelerate certain aging processes.

According to the study authors, the treatments prescribed by doctors for breast cancer can affect a person’s long-term health.  This can lead to persistent fatigue and physical pain and not just cognitive problems.  Some chemo agents and radiation destroy cancer by damaging the DNA of cancer cells, but can also damage the DNA of surrounding healthy cells, accelerating the aging processes.

Judith Carroll conducted the team, who is an associate professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology that worked with 94 women who had a form of breast cancer treatment 3-6 years before the start of the study.  Markers of biological aging were analyzed, such as high DNA damage levels, reduced telomerase activity and shortened telomeres in blood cells.  As the telomeres become shorter, this will eventually send a signal the cell is aging and will soon die.  Telomerase activity can be an indicator of how well the body can maintain cell health.  Those who had high levels of DNA damage and low telomerase activity also scored lower on tests assessing executive function and those with low telomerase activity, also showed poor attention and a decline in motor speed.

Findings as these are important as they provide information of what might be happening after cancer treatment that will impact cognitive decline in some people.  This could lead to new interventions to prevent these cognitive declines.  Carrol says the work is novel by identifying key factors in biological aging and connecting them to cognitive function that initiates new avenues of research.  Establishing the connection between markers of biological aging and signs of cognitive problems following treatment could pave the way to future studies.

Isn’t this just one more reason for considering alternative care?

Dr Fredda Branyon