July 30, 2013

New research advances from Alzheimer's Association conference

BOSTON — New studies reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2013 in Boston cover the spectrum of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research, including novel treatment and prevention strategies, possible new risk factors, advances in early detection and diagnosis, and an updated model of disease progression.

The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference is the premier annual forum for presentation and discussion of the latest Alzheimer’s and dementia research. Celebrating 25 years of progress while shaping the future of dementia science, AAIC 2013 brought together nearly 5,000 leading experts and researchers from 66 countries around the world, and featured more than 1,800 scientific presentations.

Potential Alzheimer’s disease risk factors

Most kinds of cancer associated with decreased risk of Alzheimer’s; Chemotherapy adds additional decrease in Alzheimer’s risk

A study of the health records 3.5 million U.S. veterans indicated that most kinds of cancer are associated with a significantly decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Results suggested that chemotherapy treatment for almost all of those cancers conferred an additional decrease in Alzheimer’s risk. The researchers found no association between cancer history and reduced risk of any other typical age-related health outcome; in fact, most cancer survivors were found to be at increased risk for non-Alzheimer’s dementia. The scientists concluded that the findings indicate that the protective relationship between most cancers and Alzheimer’s disease is not explained simply by increased mortality among cancer patients. More research is needed to determine the cause(s) of the reduced risk, and therefore identify potential new therapeutic avenues for Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes drug associated with reduced risk of dementia

Type 2 diabetes may double the risk of dementia. However, in a study of nearly 15,000 type 2 diabetes patients age 55 and older, patients who started on metformin, an insulin sensitizer, had a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia compared with patients who started other standard diabetes therapies. Trials are currently under way to evaluate metformin as a potential therapy for dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

Older age at retirement is associated with a reduced risk of dementia

An analysis of health and insurance records of more than 429,000 self-employed workers in France found that retirement at older age is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, with a lower risk for each added year of working longer. The researchers suggested that professional activity may contribute to higher levels of intellectual stimulation and mental engagement, which may be protective against dementia, though more research is needed in this area.

Socioeconomic factors may explain higher Alzheimer’s risk in African-Americans

In the United States, older African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias as older whites. But in a study of 3,075 black and white elders who were free of dementia at the beginning of the study, the risk difference was no longer statistically significant after researchers adjusted for socioeconomic factors including education level, literacy, income and financial adequacy. The authors urged that future studies investigating racial and ethnic dementia risk disparities should take a broad range of socioeconomic factors into account.

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