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Chemotherapy and Aging

Posted 4/5/2014

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  I can't decide whether this study is cheering because it confirms what we all already knew or whether it is deeply depressing. The findings of an examination of blood of women with Stage I, II, and III breast cancer, taken after chemotherapy at specific intervals, were that chemo speeded up physiological aging. Now, they were looking at sophisticated markers of how our various organs are performing, but it is not a big leap from our kidneys to think about our skin or our hair or our joints.

  This is one of those things where there cannot be a comparative study. I only know what I look like since first receiving chemotherapy, and being thrown into early chemical menopause, twenty years ago. I can't know what I would look or feel like otherwise. I do think (and I hope this is not just a rationalization) that most of us get over our issues about aging pretty quickly when confronted with the other possibility of early death from cancer. It becomes YAY! I'm 50! and then YAY! I'm 60. But that does not mean that we especially like our wrinkles and arthritis graying, thinning hair. We do, however, have the right perspective: any day above the ground is a good day.

  Here is the start of a report of this study and then a link to read it all:

Adjuvant Chemotherapy Increases Markers of Molecular Aging in the Blood of BC Survivors

Adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer is “gerontogenic”, accelerating the pace of physiologic aging, according to a new study published March 28 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Loss of organ function, characterized by an increase in cellular senescence, is one physiological part of aging. Studies
have identified leukocyte telomere length, expression of senescence-associated cytokines including interleukin-6, and
expression of p16INK4a and ARF in peripheral blood T lymphocytes (PBTLs) as markers of cellular senescence. The authors previously showed p16INK4a is a marker of accelerated molecular age in PBTLs associated with smoking, physical inactivity, and chronic human immunodeficiency virus infection. To date, the long term effect of cytotoxic chemotherapy given with curative intent on molecular aging has not been reported.


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