Cancer Silver Lining

For patients living with cancer (and even for their health care providers working day in and day out in the cancer field), sometimes it can be hard to find positivity. If you’re looking for a little bright spot about cancer, here’s something to keep in mind: current research suggests that older people who have survived cancer garner some protection against later developing dementia.

Several studies have found the same mysterious thread, that cancer survivors are less likely to subsequently develop Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia than their cohorts who never battled cancer. For all the terrible things that a cancer diagnosis and its treatment brings, it just might be that there is one bright spot after diagnosis.

Some researchers now suspect that biological processes that can tip the scales toward cancer, also provide some protection against dementia later in life. In fact, after following nearly 15,000 adults for almost a dozen years, researchers found that the people who had experienced cancer (and survived) performed slightly better in terms of memory functions and experienced a slower memory decline both before and after their diagnosis.

While avoiding cancer in the first place would always be preferable, it is heartening to be able to note this one silver lining for cancer patients.


Ospina-Romero M, Abdiwahab E, Kobayashi L, et al. Rate of memory change before and after cancer diagnosis. JAMA Network Open 2019;2(6):e196169.