UA: Breast Cancer Therapy Associated With Reduced Risk Of Neurodegenerative Disease In Women

UA News:

TUCSON, Ariz. — Findings from an investigative study at the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona Health Sciences have shown that, for women with breast cancer, exposure to hormone-modulating therapies was associated with a significant decrease in the number of women who received a diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease – more specifically Alzheimer’s disease.

The center’s investigation, which was published in JAMA Network Open this past spring, surveyed medical insurance claims from private-payer and Medicare data to identify premenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal patients who had been diagnosed with breast cancer to determine whether those women receiving hormone-modulating therapies had a different risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease. 

“This retrospective cohort study provides a clear message: breast cancer therapies do not increase the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Critically, these therapies can actually reduce the risk of developing these diseases, ” said Center Director Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD. “As life expectancies after treatment increase for breast cancer patients, this study further illustrates the importance of evaluating personalized treatment options that may result in a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

According 2019 statistics from, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women and 12.8% of women (1 in 8) will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. It is predicted the number of women living with breast cancer and at risk for other diseases will escalate, in the aging population especially. At the same time, women are at a two-fold greater lifetime risk than men for developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

The study’s lead author, Gregory Branigan, a predoctoral fellow, is part of the UArizona MD/PhD Program, which offers dual training in both medicine and biomedical research, and is conducting his doctoral research in Dr. Brinton’s laboratory. Collaborators include Kathleen Rodgers, PhD, Maira Soto, PhD, and noted breast cancer surgeon Leigh Neumayer, MD, former surgery department head at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson now at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville.

Dr. Brinton also is a UArizona professor in the Department of Neurology and Pharmacology in the College of Medicine – Tucson and Department of Psychology in the UArizona College of Science. 

The UArizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science continues to pursue research through an innovative “all brains on deck” approach, in order to reduce the global burden of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

This study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging: Perimenopause in Brain Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease (P01AG026572); Translational Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias – TRADD (T32AG061897); and Aging and Estrogenic Control of the Bioenergetic System in Brain (R37AG053589); and funding from the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement to Dr. Brinton’s research.

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