New research has highlighted a possible link between a prostate cancer treatment called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and the risk of dementia. The findings are published today in the Journal JAMA Oncology.
Androgens are a group of male hormones that includes testosterone. These hormones play a number of important roles in the body but can also stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells in those affected by the disease. Androgen deprivation therapy blocks the effect of androgens on prostate cancer cells and is one treatment approach doctors may use to tackle the disease. Previous research by the authors suggested a link between ADT and Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia. Dementia can be caused by a number of different diseases and this study broadened the analysis to see whether the therapy might be associated with a risk of all types of dementia.
The researchers reviewed the medical records of 9,272 men with prostate cancer, including 1,826 who had received ADT, taking into account established dementia risk factors such as age and cardiovascular health. The team found that, five years on from a diagnosis of prostate cancer, patients who didn’t receive ADT had a 3.5% risk of developing dementia compared to a 7.9% risk for those who did receive the therapy. Patients who received the treatment for at least a year showed the highest increased risk of developing dementia. The researchers suggested some possible causes for a link between ADT and dementia risk, highlighting that blocking androgens could affect the health and growth of nerve cells in the brain.