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Hormone therapy for prostate cancer may raise dementia risk

A seated man smiles over his shoulder at a woman behind him.

Aug. 2, 2019—Men who choose to treat their prostate cancer with hormone therapy may have a heightened risk of getting Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia later in life, new research suggests.

The study involved more than 150,000 men ages 66 and older who had prostate cancer. Some of the men had hormone therapy, also known as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). ADT reduces levels of hormones that fuel prostate tumor growth. It's usually an option for men with advanced prostate cancer or men whose cancer may be more likely to return after they've received other treatments.

Researchers followed the men in the study for about eight years.

When compared with men who did not use ADT, those who did had a 14% increased risk of developing Alzheimer's and a 20% increased risk of dementia.

How might ADT raise cognitive risks?

According to the researchers, ADT may increase a person's risk for thinking and memory problems in different ways. For instance, it may directly impair the growth and renewal of nerve cells in the brain. Or it may contribute to other conditions—such as diabetes, heart disease and depression—that raise the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia.

To be clear, the research doesn't prove that ADT causes dementia or Alzheimer's. Some previous studies have shown a similar link, but others have not. So more research is needed.

Talk to your doctor

If you have questions about hormone therapy for prostate cancer, you should talk to your doctor. Many men benefit from hormone treatments, which can help slow the growth and spread of prostate cancer, the study's authors noted. But it's important for each man to discuss the benefits and risks of ADT with his doctor.

The study appeared in JAMA.

Hormone therapy is just one option

Learn more about prostate cancer treatment choices.

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