Accelerated aging after cancer treatment may lead to mental impairment
The suspicion that cancer treatment can accelerate the body’s biological processes associated with aging for a long time. A new study has shown that women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, signs of biological aging are correlated with cognitive abilities. Changes appeared several years after therapy.
It is known that after treatment of breast cancer there is a risk of long-term side effects, including prolonged weakness, pain, cognitive impairment. Certain types of treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy work by damaging the DNA of cancer cells, but their effect can spread to normal cells, accelerating the aging process.
To examine how indicators of biological aging are associated with cognitive impairment in patients surviving after cancer treatment, a group of scientists analyzed data on 94 patients, past anticancer therapy six years earlier. Indicators of biological aging were DNA damage, decreased activity of the enzyme telomerase and shortening of telomere length in some cells of blood.
(Telomerase enzyme which is needed to maintain the length of telomeres, the end parts of chromosomes necessary for maintaining healthy cells).
The researchers found that women previously treated for breast cancer, and also had low telomerase activity and high levels of DNA damage, the observed decrease in indicators of tests on purposeful activity. In addition, the decrease in telomerase activity was associated with deterioration of motor skills and reduced attention.
Our data are important because they provide new information about the fact that after cancer treatment some may be suffering cognitive function. This may further help to develop a method of dealing with this problem, said Dr. Judith E. Carroll (Judith E. Carroll), associate Professor of psychiatry in the Center of psychoneuroimmunology Cousins at the University of California in Los Angeles.