A Common Prostate Cancer Treatment May Cause Alzheimer’s

Did You Know…that a common prostate cancer treatment may cause Alzheimer’s?

About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and around half a million of those men in the United States currently use ADT (androgen deprivation therapy) to treat their cancer.  According to a startling new study, ADT may increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  The findings also indicate that the longer a man took ADT, the more likely he was to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in subsequent years.

Researchers Find Link Between ADT and Alzheimer’s 

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and led by a team from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), analyzed medical records from 2 large hospital systems.  The research team found a clear link between ADT and Alzheimer’s disease.  This study is the first to identify that frightening link.  While this study does not definitively prove ADT causes Alzheimer’s, it does provide compelling evidence of that possibility.

“Based on the results of our study, an increased risk of Alzheimer’s is a potential adverse effect of ADT,” says lead author Dr. Kevin T. Nead, a radiation oncologist at UPenn’s Perelman School of Medicine.  Nead called for more research on the connection, saying that the aim of the study is to offer important information for health professionals considering the risks and benefits of ADT.

A Dramatically Elevated Risk of Alzheimer’s 

The UPenn study drew from 2 sizeable collections of medical records: the first was made up of 1.8 million patients from the Stanford health system and the second was made up of 3.7 million patients from Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.  From the combined set of over 5 million patient records, the researchers sourced about 18,000 prostate cancer patients, 16,888 of whom had cancer that was not metastatic (meaning it had not yet begun to spread). Of the prostate cancer patients, 2,397 had been treated with ADT.

The large number of records allowed the researchers to compared patients treated with ADT to a matched control group of patients who were similar in age and other factors but had not taken ADT. Compared to those in the control group, patients who underwent ADT treatment were significantly more likely—about 88%—to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the years following the start of their treatment.

The researchers also found a dose-response effect in that the longer the patients took ADT, the higher the likelihood of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This effect was quite dramatic, so much so that patients who were on ADT the longest had twice the risk of Alzheimer’s as patients who had not taken ADT.

Author Says Discovery Has “Serious Public Health Implications” 

“It’s hard to determine the precise amount of increased risk in just one study,” says Nead.  He also notes that the study does not prove causation.  Considering the prevalence of Alzheimer’s in older men, however, he says that anything that increases the risk of developing the disease carries serious public health implications.

Nead and his fellow researchers plan to expand their exploration of the link between ADT and Alzheimer’s into an even larger collection of cancer patient records.  In the meantime, if you or a loved one are dealing with prostate cancer, speak with a trusted health practitioner about the abundance of alternative options available.