Does Cancer Accelerate Aging?

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Does cancer accelerate aging? Recent research shows that cancer survivors tire more easily than people with no cancer history, even years after treatment.

Despite the idea that you’re only as old as you feel, such instances suggest a pattern of “accelerated aging” among those who have a history of cancer.

“The main goal of cancer treatment has been survival, but studies like this suggest that we need also to examine the longer-term effects on health and quality of life,” said Jennifer Schrack, the study’s senior author and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

The research stems from data analyzed from a long-term study on normal aging, according to U.S. News & World Report. Among those involved, over 300 were cancer survivors with an average age of 74. About 1,330 participant, with an average age of 69, had not had the disease.

As part of the study, researchers assessed participants’ endurance with treadmill tests and 400-meter walks. When they finished, researchers asked about their level of fatigue. They then compared the results of cancer survivors to the results of those who never had the disease.

The comparison showed that:

– Those who experienced cancer treatment were 1.6 times more likely to report a high level of fatigue.

– Participants over the age of 65 had a 5.7-time higher risk for a decline in endurance.

– On average, cancer survivors walked 14 seconds slower and tired more quickly.

So does cancer accelerate aging? Previous studies also portray accelerated aging associated with cancer treatment, not only relating to fatigue but also brain function and heart health.

The new report links a history of cancer with greater fatigue, and proposes that this fatigue worsens with age.

“The long-term goal is that doctors and patients will be able to take those specific long-term effects into account when they decide how to treat different cancers,” Schrack said.