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Approved research

The inverse link between incidence rates of cancer and Alzheimer's disease: comparing spurious and causal explanations to illuminate the causes of Alzheimer's disease.

Principal Investigator: Professor M. Maria Glymour
Approved Research ID: 34507
Approval date: December 18th 2018

Lay summary

Several studies report an inverse association between cancer and Alzheimer's disease i.e., individuals who have (or have had) cancer are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life. Our goal is to try to understand the origins of this phenomenon, i.e., whether or not there are biological processes that can explain this. Evidence has already shown that it is unlikely this inverse relationship is induced by the higher mortality among cancer patients, which opens the door wider for a biological explanation at the root of this association. If the association between cancer and AD arises from a common physiologic process, exploring the intersections and origins of the association could reveal novel insights into the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease and highlight targets for preventive or therapeutic interventions. We propose to systematically explore the validity and plausibility of each competing explanation for this inverse relationship. This research is aimed to help prioritize strategies for preventing Alzheimer's disease (AD). AD poses a huge and tragic public health burden, and discoveries to prevent or delay AD onset are directly aligned with the goals of the UK Biobank. We will show how cognitive changes across repeated interviews and brain imaging markers of AD in the UK Biobank relate to cancer diagnoses and genetic risk for cancer.