Fighting cancer may also help patients fight Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System found that veterans with all types of cancer had a reduced risk for later developing Alzheimer's disease.
Survivors of liver cancer had the lowest risk: 51 percent. Other cancers had reduced risk, including pancreas (44 percent), esophagus (33 percent), leukemia (31 percent), lung (25 percent) and kidney (22 percent).
There was no link between Alzheimer's and prostate cancer or melanoma. Breast cancer was not studied because there were too few cases in the database that researchers analyzed.
When investigators looked at cancer treatments, they found that chemotherapy but not radiation seemed to offer the apparent protective benefit.
"The message is not, 'Should we use chemotherapy as a therapeutic for Alzheimer's disease?'" said Dr. Maria Carillo of the Alzheimer's Association. "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?'"
Results from the study have not been published in a medical journal; they have not undergone independent review by scientists not involved in the research.
Another study presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Monday suggests that the type 2 diabetes drug Metformin may also reduce the risk for dementia.