After Cancer, Accelerated Aging?

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MONDAY, April 2, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Even decades after treatment, cancer survivors tire more easily than people with no history of the disease, according to new research.

The findings hint at a pattern of "accelerated aging" for people with a cancer history.

"The main goal of cancer treatment has been survival, but studies like this suggest that we need also to examine the longer-term effects on health and quality of life," said the study's senior author, Jennifer Schrack. She's an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

The researchers analyzed data from a long-term study on normal aging. More than 300 were cancer survivors, with an average age of 74. About 1,330 of those studied, average age 69, had not had the disease.

Participants completed periodic treadmill tests and 400-meter walks (two-tenths of a mile) to assess their endurance, beginning in 2007. Afterward, they were asked to rate their level of fatigue.

The researchers compared results of cancer survivors with the results of adults who never had cancer.

"We were surprised by the magnitude of the differences we found," Schrack said in a university news release.

On average, those with a history of cancer treatment tired more easily on the treadmill tests and took longer to finish the walking tests, the study found.

It showed cancer treatment was linked to a 1.6 times greater risk of a high level of fatigue.

Being older than 65 was associated with a 5.7 higher risk for this decline in endurance.

The cancer survivors walked, on average, 14 seconds slower and got tired more quickly, the study found.

The results were published recently in the journal Cancer. The U.S. National Cancer Institute and the U.S. National Institute on Aging funded the research.

As of 2016, there were some 16 million cancer survivors in the United States alone, the study's authors noted.

Previous studies have shown that cancer treatment -- often including chemotherapy and radiation -- appears to speed up the aging process, leading to fatigue, a decline in brain function, heart disease and return of cancer.

These new findings "support the idea that a history of cancer is associated with higher fatigability and that this effect worsens with advancing age," Schrack said.

"The long-term goal is that doctors and patients will be able to take those specific long-term effects into account when they decide how to treat different cancers," she added.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute provides more information on the side effects of cancer treatment.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, news release, March 2018

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Thu Apr 05, 2018 03:01 PM

This is certainly no surprise to me!  The long term problems resulting from the treatment for my prostate cancer have been far more troublesome than any of the observable symptoms of the disease.  Of the 21 headings in the "side effects of cancer treatment" article referenced above I now live with 7 at least.  

I must acknowledge that, untreated, the disease would be worse but I can only take it on faith in medicine that I am actually better off.


Thu Apr 05, 2018 08:01 PM

Holy, cow, what a surprise.

I have some of these symptoms too, but some of them are due to old age, not cancer.  Others, though, are definitely due to my cancer treatment--surgery and radiation.

However, the fact that I can continue to age at all is important to me, and in my mind the cancer cure that enabled this more than outbalances the fact that I might age a bit faster.  I definitely aged in appearance during the ordeal, but that I'm here to tell about it is the important thing.


Sat Apr 28, 2018 06:56 PM

Fussyoldfart you did a good job of puttimg my own thoughts into words.Like you and as the article states I've become very aware of the accelerated aging effect from some of my treatment for prostate cancer.

We do take a lot on blind faith and our doctors opinion regarding what is the gold standard for treatment and I have begun to wonder how things would have turned out if I had not taken the hormone deprivation route before and during radiation treatment.While I tolerated it well there is no doubt it destroyed my muscles, altered my body considerably and left me with very little physical strength or endurance a year later.

Would I already be dead without it or would I have been stronger and better off now i'm reaching the pointy end of this "adventure" had I refused it? Guess I'll never know and it proves there is only one rule when dealing with cancer--There are no rules

Mon Jun 04, 2018 04:41 AM

I was 9 when I had Hodgkins. I managed to be very active in swimming and was a lifeguard for 30 years. But recently I feel as if I have aged well beyond my 47. Physically..that is:) Emotionally I tend to range from 15 to about 35...haha 

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