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Biological aging caused by cancer treatments correlates with cognitive decline

Cancer treatments are suspected to accelerate some aging processes in the body. A new study has shown that indicators for…

Cancer treatments are suspected to accelerate some aging processes in the body. A new study has shown that indicators for such biological aging correlate with decreases in cognitive function in women who have undergone breast cancer treatment several years earlier. Published early online in CANCER A peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society points the results to an anti-aging effect of cancer treatments and further links this to cognitive decline.

Breast cancer treatments increase patients’ risk of prolonged and late toxic effects, including persistent fatigue, pain and cognitive dysfunction. Certain treatments, including radiation and certain chemotherapeutic drugs, work by damaging DNA cells from cancerous cells, but they can also damage DNA in normal cells, which can contribute to increased biological aging.

To investigate whether indicators of biological aging are related to cognitive function of breast cancer survivors, Judith E. Carroll, PhD student, psychiatrist professor, UCLA cousins ​​for psycho-neuroimmunology and Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and her colleagues evaluated a group of 94 women who had been treated for breast cancer three to six years earlier. The biological aging indicators included elevated levels of DNA damage, decreased enzymatic enzyme activity in the telomerase and shorter telomer length in some blood cells. (Telomeras is an enzyme that is important for maintaining the length of telomeres, repeating DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes that help maintain the health of cells and serve as a marker for cell age.)

The team found that previously treated women for breast cancer that had both higher DNA damage and lower telomerase activity had lower efficacy results. In addition, lower telomerase activity was associated with poorer attention and engine speed. Telomer’s length was not related to any of the neurocognitive domains.

“These results are important because they provide additional information about what can happen after cancer treatment that affects cognitive decline in some individuals. This information can inform future research and can lead to new efforts to prevent these cognitive impairments,” says Dr. Carroll, who is also a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The work is novel by identifying key factors in biological aging and linking them to cognitive function, which initiates new research areas.”


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