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Chemotherapy, radiation accelerates aging, reduces body function, study says

By Tauren Dyson
Chemotherapy, radiation accelerates aging, reduces body function, study says
Certain treatments, including radiation and some chemotherapeutic drugs, work by damaging the DNA of cancer cells, but they can also cause damage to DNA of normal cells. Photo by CristinaMuraca/Shutterstock

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Cancer treatments may speed up aging in the body, a new study says.

A study published in the journal CANCER noted persistent fatigue, pain and cognitive dysfunction in 94 women who received treatments for breast cancer, including radiation and chemotherapy, three to six years earlier.

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"These findings are important because they provide further information about what might be happening after cancer treatment that impacts cognitive decline in some individuals," Judith E. Carroll, a researcher at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "This information can inform future research and may lead to new interventions to prevent these cognitive declines."

Treatments like radiation and chemotherapy work to destroy the DNA within cancer cells and can also damage the DNA of healthy cells.

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Carroll and her team observed DNA damage and lower telomerase activity in the cancer breast patients they studied, which indicates lower attention span and worse motor speed. The women also experienced a reduction in telomerase, an enzyme that helps maintain the health and mark the age of cells.

Ultimately, the higher DNA damage and lower telomerase levels among study participants led to weakened cognitive ability.

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According to breastcancer.org, over 12 percent of women in the United States will develop breast cancer. And, nearly all women get radiation after a lumpectomy. About two-thirds of women with N2/N3 breast cancer receive post-mastectomy radiation treatment, according to a 2015 study.

"The work is novel by identifying key factors in biological aging and connecting them to cognitive function, which initiates new avenues of research," Carroll said.

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