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It’s True! Researchers Say Having Alzheimer’s Disease Prevents Cancer

By on July 11, 2013
In the oddest piece of news to come from the journal Neurology, researchers say there’s a surprising benefit of Alzheimer’s disease–a significantly lower risk of cancer.

The findings, which will be discussed at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, explains that people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a type of incurable memory loss, faced a 43 percent lower risk of cancer.

Conversely, people diagnosed with cancer are 35 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings have researchers troubled.

“There may be some genetic factor that, if it’s tipped one way, it may cause abnormal cell growth, and tipped another way, it may cause abnormal cell death,” says Dr. Catherine Roe, a researcher who first identified a link between Alzheimer’s disease and cancer in 2005. “It could open avenues of investigation that people haven’t even thought of yet.”

And the links don’t just end there–both conditions have been invariably linked to the process of aging, although the causes of each condition vary. Cancer is commonly caused by an outbreak of cell growth, whereas Alzheimer’s disease occurs when cells in the brain die at a rapid rate.

Why Are These Conditions Linked?

Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease appear to be linked–but why? Researchers suggest that these findings intensify a genetic link between the two conditions–and may strengthen the need for gene therapy as a treatment or preventative cure for both conditions.

Some researchers have even identified a specific gene connected to both conditions, called TP53.

“The TP53 gene provides instructions for making a protein called tumor protein p53,” says the U.S. Library of Medicine. “This protein acts as a tumor suppressor, which means that it regulates cell division by keeping cells from growing and dividing too fast or in an uncontrolled way.”

For those with cancer, TP53 is deactivated in roughly 50 percent of people, according to The Telegraph. However, the same can’t be said for Alzheimer’s disease–researchers say this gene is usually more active.

Could an irregularity in how TP53 is manifested in the body account for both conditions? Researchers can’t say for sure, but the evidence is compelling–and calls for further testing.

Unfortunately, not all cancers offer the same protective benefit from Alzheimer’s disease, say researchers. For instance, prostate cancer doesn’t seem to lower a person’s risk of memory loss, which only complicates matters.

What These Findings Mean For You

Unfortunately, these findings won’t help you figure out how to keep your risk of cancer or Alzheimer’s disease low–but there are still ways to minimize your risk naturally. For a quick protective benefit against both diseases, here’s what to do:

  • Exercise your brain regularly. While physical exercise is also excellent for deterring cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, research shows that keeping your brain active–such as playing brain games–significantly decreases the risk of memory loss, which may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Not only may it reduce your risk of cancer, it can also protect you against diabetes, which can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Those who eat more fruits and vegetables usually face a lower cancer risk, which some believe is due to its antioxidant content. Its high antioxidant content may also protect against memory loss.

Readers: Do you think these conditions are solely caused by faulty genes?

Source:
Cancer and Alzheimer’s Linked – Telegraph.co.uk
Information on the TP53 Genenlm.nih.gov

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