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Rejuvenation Res. 2010 Aug;13(4):387-96. doi: 10.1089/rej.2009.0941.

Trade-offs between cancer and other diseases: do they exist and influence longevity?

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  • 1Center for Population Health and Aging, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA. svo@duke.edu


Relationships between aging, disease risks, and longevity are not yet well understood. For example, joint increases in cancer risk and total survival observed in many human populations and some experimental aging studies may be linked to a trade-off between cancer and aging as well as to the trade-off(s) between cancer and other diseases, and their relative impact is not clear. While the former trade-off (between cancer and aging) received broad attention in aging research, the latter one lacks respective studies, although its understanding is important for developing optimal strategies of increasing both longevity and healthy life span. In this paper, we explore the possibility of trade-offs between risks of cancer and selected major disorders. First, we review current literature suggesting that the trade-offs between cancer and other diseases may exist and be linked to the differential intensity of apoptosis. Then we select relevant disorders for the analysis (acute coronary heart disease [ACHD], stroke, asthma, and Alzheimer disease [AD]) and calculate the risk of cancer among individuals with each of these disorders, and vice versa, using the Framingham Study (5209 individuals) and the National Long Term Care Survey (NLTCS) (38,214 individuals) data. We found a reduction in cancer risk among old (80+) men with stroke and in risk of ACHD among men (50+) with cancer in the Framingham Study. We also found an increase in ACHD and stroke among individuals with cancer, and a reduction in cancer risk among women with AD in the NLTCS. The manifestation of trade-offs between risks of cancer and other diseases thus depended on sex, age, and study population. We discuss factors modulating the potential trade-offs between major disorders in populations, e.g., disease treatments. Further study is needed to clarify possible impact of such trade-offs on longevity.

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