Study finds link between prostate cancer therapy and dementia risk

A study out of the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine has found a link between drugs commonly used to treat prostate cancer and an increased risk of developing dementia. The study looked at more than 150,000 men who had prostate cancer, 62,330 of whom started receiving androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) within two years of being diagnosed.

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This large study follows multiple smaller past studies that found an association between the common prostate cancer treatment and the increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

In their study, University of Pennsylvania researchers found that 22-percent of prostate cancer patients who received ADT were later diagnosed with dementia compared to 16-percent who did not receive ADT. As well, 13-percent of ADT recipients developed Alzheimer's disease compared to 9-percent who did not receive the hormone therapy.

Though this hormone-blocking therapy has been proven highly effective for slowing prostate cancer, it does come with a number of risk factors, including increased risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, and, based on a growing number of studies, possibly cognitive decline.

The study's co-author Thomas Guzzo, MD, MPH, explained:

I think we need to look at these patients on an individual level. Certainly there are patients who need hormonal therapy and benefit from it greatly. There are others where the evidence is less clear, and in these patients, we should strongly consider the risk of hormonal therapy versus the benefit in treating their prostate cancer. This should be a shared decision-making process with the patient.