Virtually every medical treatment carries the chance of side effects.
But as people age and the chance of developing different health conditions rises, they and their doctors increasingly have to create tough decisions about trade-offs.
Surgery for, say, a hip replacement may carry an elevated danger of a potentially dangerous blood clot. Chemotherapy may raise the chances of infection or anemia.
New research presented earlier this month now suggests there can be another tough decision to add to the list.
But cancer experts warn that the likely small risk shouldn’t outweigh the potential life-saving great things about the treatment.
The study is preliminary and it only found an association — meaning it isn’t clear whether the therapy actually causes the memory-loss condition.
Simply being older could be a factor since prostate cancer starts on average around age 65, which will be also the age after which dementia symptoms be common.
But the investigation does underline the possible difficult choices some the elderly increasingly face as they enter their mid-60s, as well as a significantly contentious medical debate.
In certain situations, doctors will recommend hormone therapy for those who have prostate cancer.
Hormones like testosterone can fuel the growth and spread of prostate cancer. So hormone therapy, also referred to as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), slows the body’s production of testosterone and other “male hormones.”
That, consequently, can slow the cancer’s spread and sometimes shrink the tumors it’s caused.
The newest research gathered data from more than 100,000 mostly white men. Those who received the hormone therapy were 22 percent more likely to develop dementia than men who hadn’t had that treatment.
They certainly were 29 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, the most typical reason for dementia.
Those chances also increased if they were on hormone therapy for seven months or longer, the researchers found.
The study was presented earlier this month at the American Urological Association’s annual meeting in Chicago. It hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal yet.
Experts noted that previous studies have sometimes found an association between cognitive decline and hormone therapy while other studies haven’t found a link.
“You can find abstracts on both parties of the ledger,” Dr. Mack Roach, an oncologist who specializes in prostate cancer at the University of California San Francisco, told Healthline.
A study published this past year, for example, found no association between dementia and hormone therapy for prostate cancer.
Another study Trusted Source this past year found the therapy wasn’t associated with self-reported changes in cognitive ability.
But other research has found an association, including a 2016 study Trusted Source nevertheless the therapy might be linked with a slightly increased frequency of dementia.
“I believe these types of studies are dangerous,” Roach said. “I believe the research itself is more dangerous compared to [hormone therapy].”
That’s because Roach thinks reading about findings like this might dissuade people from getting treatment that has a top likelihood of saving or extending their lives.
“In all the studies, if the chance is there, it’s very small — and a fraction of the possible great things about hormone therapy,” Roach said.
Roach said he wouldn’t want to offer hormone therapy to an individual who doesn’t need it, but if they do need it, studies similar to this wouldn’t dissuade him