Chemotherapy causes breast cancer survivors to age faster, first-of-its-kind study reveals
(NaturalHealth365) Chemotherapy is an aggressive and intense form of cancer treatment that – in a small amount of cases – may very well save lives, but at what cost? Sadly, very few people are given the opportunity to consider all of their options before treatment begins.
For example: A new study published in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society (ACS), asks a new and important question about the potential risks of chemo: could it actually accelerate aging among survivors?
New research suggests that chemotherapy could accelerate a person’s biological age – in other words, cause people to grow older faster
A team of researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) recently published the results of their study that looked at the impact of chemotherapy on epigenetic aging. Epigenetic aging refers to a person’s degree of aging based on DNA changes. You might think of it as a scientific way to look at a person’s genes in order to determine the difference between their “biological age” vs their “chronological age.”
The researchers collected two blood samples from 89 survivors of nonmetastatic breast cancer – about a third of whom underwent chemotherapy – and 101 age-matched controls; study participants were between the ages of 62 and 84 years old.
Upon analysis, the researchers found that the cancer survivors overall were 1.04 to 2.22 years “biologically older” than controls. However, the cancer survivors who were exposed to chemotherapy were 1.97 to 2.71 years older. And while this may not sound like a lot, the potential consequences of this accelerated aging are concerning.
That is, the researchers concluded that “[o]lder breast cancer survivors, particularly those exposed to chemotherapy, showed greater epigenetic aging than controls that may relate to worse outcomes,” such as poorer cognitive and physical function. And in an article on StudyFinds, Dr. Judith Carroll, senior co-author of the study, says that their results “support the idea that certain cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy, may contribute to accelerated aging at a biological level.”
What’s more, the researchers found that these cognitive and physical adverse effects related to accelerated aging persisted in cancer survivors up to 60 months post-treatment – and possibly longer.
Is your doctor telling you about the unwanted side effects BEFORE treatment?
If you (or a loved one) are ever given a cancer diagnosis, only you and your personal medical team can know what the right treatment approach will be for you.
You should also know that discussing new research like the study mentioned above is not intended to shame anyone who seeks out chemotherapy or scare people away from potentially lifesaving treatments. People living with cancer, however, should be fully informed of the potential risks of any treatment they choose to undergo.
And simply put, chemotherapy – like any medical intervention, procedure, or medication – can cause unwanted side effects. As the American Cancer Society notes, chemotherapy is specifically prone to cause side effects because the drugs used “can affect normal, healthy cells” in addition to the fast-growing cancerous cells the drugs are actually designed to target.
While noting that “side effects are not always as bad as you might expect,” the American Cancer Society does warn that some people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer can experience a range of unpleasant effects, including:
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appetite and weight changes
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Mouth, tongue, and throat problems (e.g., oral sores and pain with swallowing)
- Nerve problems like numbness, tingling, and pain
- Changes in the skin and nails (e.g., color change, increased dryness)
- Urine and bladder changes
- Kidney problems
- Impaired concentration and focus, aka “chemo brain”
- Changes in libido, sexual function, and mood
The bottom line: Conventional cancer care treatment options have not really changed that much in several decades, and the 5-year survival rates are pretty much the same for many different types of cancer. In truth, the “standard” treatment options for cancer (surgery, chemo and radiation) are linked to costly side effects – and those are costs that individuals should be fully aware of as they make very personal decisions for themselves and their loved ones.
We argue that individuals should also be supported in their exploration of holistic therapies that can help to support their overall well-being as they move through their cancer journey.
Editor’s note: To learn more about how to stop cancer naturally, own the Stop Cancer Docu-Class presented by NaturalHealth365 Programs and featuring many of the best (holistic) cancer experts in the world.
Sources for this article include: