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How does cancer treatment affect our brains?
Researchers have now found that the same factors that help cancer treatment to eradicate tumors also accelerate aging processes in the body. This is especially true for the brain.
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found in their current study that treatments for cancer contribute to accelerated aging of the brain. The doctors published the results of their current investigation in the English-language journal "Cancer".
Cancer treatments accelerate certain aging processes
Chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer has the consequence that sufferers report a loss of quality in their cognitive abilities. In the current study, the experts looked at women who had undergone breast cancer treatment in the past. In these women, markers for biological aging were found that are associated with reduced cognitive function. The results of the study suggest that cancer treatments accelerate certain aging processes. The study's authors explain that treatment affects a person's long-term health. It leads not only to cognitive problems, but also to persistent fatigue and physical pain.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs affect DNA
Radiation therapy and some chemotherapy drugs destroy cancer. However, this can also damage the DNA of surrounding healthy cells and accelerate their aging processes. The study examined 94 women who had received breast cancer treatment within two years of the study. The experts analyzed biological aging markers in these women, such as high DNA damage, reduced telomerase activity and shortened telomeres in blood cells. The so-called telomerase activity can be an indicator of how well the body can maintain cell health, the scientists explain.
Results could lead to new interventions
If participants had increased DNA damage and low telomerase activity, they performed poorly in the executive function tests. In addition, people with signs of short telomerase activity showed a decrease in movement speed. These results are important because they provide further details on what can happen after cancer treatment, explains study author Dr. Judith Carroll from the University of California. The information can lead to new interventions to prevent these cognitive declines, the expert adds. (as)