A new study conducted by researchers in Taiwan has found that Parkinson’s disease is linked to 16 different types of cancers. The study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, is one of few to not be conducted on western people, and aims to understand what the connection between the two (2) separate diseases is.
Over the past 50 years, researchers have conducted a great number of epidemiological studies, more than 25, all in an attempt to gather information on how Parkinson’s disease and cancer are linked to one another. They were generally conducted on western people, and the results usually showed that patients suffering from Parkinson’s were less likely to develop cancer than people who did not have Parkinson’s.
The new study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology and conducted on East Asian people, stresses the importance that genetic backgrounds and environmental pathogens have in the development of various diseases, as the researchers found that the exact opposite is the case for people living in Taiwan.
While the study authors could not find a strong link between Parkinson’s disease and a higher change of developing breast, ovarian or thyroid cancer, they did find a strong link between Parkinson’s and 16 different types of cancers, including lung cancer, malignant brain tumors, urinary tract cancer, gastrointestinal tracts cancer, lymphoma / leukemia, certain hormone-related cancers, melanoma as well as other skin cancers.
In fact, the results showed that people with Parkinson’s disease were 1.71 times more likely to develop prostate cancer and 1.95 times more likely to develop melanoma.
For their study, Dr. Pan-Chyr Yang, lead author and professor at the National Taiwan University College of Medicine, and a few of his colleagues, looked at the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database and ended up examining a total of 62.023 patients who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s between the years of 2004 and 2010. As a measure of control, they also picked a group of 124.046 healthy patients to compare them to.
The researches mentioned that they might have underestimated the number of Parkinson’s disease incidents due to not considering factors such as smoking status or exposure to pesticide. They also admitted to not considering other genetic correlations as triggers for cancer in patients with Parkinson’s.
Dr. Yang and his team gave a statement saying that “Based on this nationwide study on the association between PD [Parkinson’s disease] and cancer risk, we conclude that PD is a risk factor for most cancer in Taiwan. In our cohort, only breast, ovarian and thyroid cancers show no association with PD”.
They went on to inform that further research is needed in order to clarify if these finding can or can not be applied to other East Asian populations as well.
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