Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer: Brain Risk?
By Dennis Thompson
Men who underwent androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) for their prostate cancer had nearly twice the risk of Alzheimer’s, when compared to prostate cancer patients who didn’t receive hormone therapy, researchers found.
The risk increased even more if men received hormone therapy for longer than a year, said study lead author Dr. Kevin Nead, a radiation oncology resident at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
“We found that the people who got androgen deprivation therapy had a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and the people who were on ADT the longest had the greatest risk of Alzheimer’s,” Nead said. “In our study, there was a suggestion that this is a dose-dependent effect.”
However, the researchers added that the study didn’t prove a link between hormone therapy for prostate cancer and a risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and more investigation into a possible connection is needed.
Male sex hormones called androgens have been proven to fuel the growth of prostate cancer cells, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
To slow the growth of prostate tumors, doctors sometimes use drugs to reduce androgen levels in the body or block the action of androgens.
This tactic has been a mainstay of prostate cancer treatment since the 1940s, and currently about a half-million U.S. men receive ADT as a treatment for prostate cancer, the study authors said in background information.
But doctors have started to suspect that androgen therapy may also have an effect on a patient’s brain activity, said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society.
“There have been suspicions in the community,” Brawley said. “What we hear from patients is, ‘I can’t concentrate as well, I can’t think as well,’ but you see that with a number of other drugs.”
These thought-and-memory symptoms appear to overlap with the ones seen with Alzheimer’s, Nead said. So, the researchers decided to investigate a possible association between androgen deprivation therapy and the degenerative neurological disease.