Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Cancer, Chemo May Lower Alzheimer's Risk: Study

Results, if confirmed, might point to new treatments


All the patients were over 65 and dementia-free when they first sought medical attention.

On average the veterans were tracked for just shy of six years, during which time more than 82,000 were diagnosed with Alzheimer's. About one-quarter of these patients also had one of 19 different types of cancer. However, roughly three-quarters did not.

Although not all cancers were associated with lower Alzheimer's risk, many were. Having liver cancer was linked to a 51 percent drop in Alzheimer's risk, while pancreatic cancer was linked to a 44 percent drop. Esophageal cancer, myeloma, lung cancer and leukemia were also associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer's, in the range of 33 percent to 23 percent. What's more, such risk reduction could not be explained by the premature death of cancer patients, the study authors said.

However, melanoma, prostate cancer and colorectal cancers were not found to have any protective relationship regarding Alzheimer's risk. Nor was cancer generally linked to a reduced risk for developing other common age-related health complications.

Indeed, cancer patients appeared more likely to experience stroke, osteoarthritis or eye problems, such as cataracts. The majority of cancer patients also appeared to face a higher risk for forms of dementia other than Alzheimer's.

In terms of cancer treatments, undergoing radiation was not linked to reduced Alzheimer's risk. But undergoing chemotherapy lined up with a drop in Alzheimer's risk ranging from 20 percent to 45 percent.

Frain said the research team is now investigating which chemotherapy drugs are associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.

"The benefit of investigating this unusual, inverse relationship between cancer and [Alzheimer's] may be a better understanding of both diseases and, importantly, the chance to find novel therapies, if drugs can be designed to specifically target one disease without increasing the risk of the other," Frain said.

The study was hailed by Dr. James Galvin, a professor of neurology, psychiatry, nursing and nutrition at NYU Langone School of Medicine in New York City.

"These findings are very important in light of recent studies of mouse models of [Alzheimer's] that showed possibly significant treatment effects on [Alzheimer's] pathology by a number of chemotherapeutic drugs, particularly those used to treat blood-related cancers [and] lung and liver cancers," Galvin said.

Today on WebMD

Remember your finger
When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
senior man with serious expression
Which kinds are treatable?
senior man
Common symptoms to look for.
mri scan of human brain
Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
eating blueberries
Colored mri of brain
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
mature woman
Woman comforting ailing mother
Senior woman with serious expression