CAM Conference

Cancer as a Risk Factor for Long-Term Cognitive Deficits and Dementia

Lara H. Heflin, Beth E. Meyerowitz, Per Hall, Paul Lichtenstein, Boo Johansson, Nancy L. Pedersen, Margaret Gatz

Affiliations of authors: Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (LHH, BEM, NLP, MG); Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden (PH, PL, NLP, MG); Department of Psychology, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden (BJ)

Correspondence to: Beth E. Meyerowitz, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089–1061 (e-mail: meyerow@usc.edu).

Previous studies have shown that cancer survivors frequently experience short-term cognitive deficits, but it is unknown how long these deficits last or whether they worsen over time.

Using a co-twin control design, the cognitive function of 702 cancer survivors aged 65 years and older was compared with that of their cancer-free twins.

Dementia rates were also compared in 486 of the twin pairs discordant for cancer. Cancer survivors overall, as well as individuals who had survived cancer for 5 or more years before cognitive testing, were more likely than their co-twins to have cognitive dysfunction (odds ratio [OR] = 2.10, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.36 to 3.24; P<.001 and="" or="2.71," ci="1.47" to="" p="" respectively="">
Cancer survivors were also twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia as their co-twins, but this odds ratio did not reach statistical significance (OR = 2.0, 95% CI = 0.86 to 4.67; P = .10).

These results suggest that cancer patients are at increased risk for long-term cognitive dysfunction compared with individuals who have never had cancer, even after controlling for the influence of genetic factors and rearing environment.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 97, No. 11, 854-856, June 1, 2005
DOI: 10.1093/jnci/dji137


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