What is the Effect of Cancer on Aging?

What is the Effect of Cancer on Aging?

It is well known that aging is the most important risk factor for cancer, that 65% of all cancers occur in people aged 65 and over. Until now, the effect of aging on cancer has always been talked about; so what is the effect of cancer itself on aging?

Although cancer survivors generally live longer, they are prone to age-related functional decline due to the impact of cancer and cancer treatment. Epidemiological (community, peer-reviewed) studies have shown that children and young adult cancer survivors have lower physiological activity and higher comorbidity rates than their peers without a history of cancer. In addition, some youths in their 20s and 30s who are cancer survivors show higher rates of weakness, inactivity, poor muscle strength, and weakness comparable to individuals in their 60s and 70s. Despite these observations, research on clinically measured functional declines in early cancer survivors is still limited.

All three previously published studies reported that individuals diagnosed with cancer experienced fatigue and weakness compared to those without a history of cancer; one of them showed no statistically significant difference in reported physical functionality between the two groups.

Does Cancer Make You Age Faster?

A recent study has been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reporting that cancer accelerates aging. Researchers analyzed data from nearly 2,000 adults aged 22 to 100. Participants were evaluated for strength, walking performance, general physical condition, and performance. By looking at certain things like grip strength and walking speed as well as overall condition, there is strong evidence that cancer and cancer treatment can have adverse effects on aging-related processes.

According to the study, it can be said that people who receive more treatment age functionally faster than those who receive less treatment. For example, a woman with an early stage of breast cancer who has a lumpectomy (breast-conserving surgery) and only receives radiotherapy will be less affected than a person who has had surgery, radiotherapy, six months of chemotherapy, and years of hormone therapy.

The underlying mechanisms explaining the relationship between having a history of cancer and decreased physical performance are not well understood. Cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment process can affect various biological processes that are effective in both cellular and functional aging.

These processes, which are collectively defined as "the hallmarks of aging", include;

• genomic instability,

• telomere wear,

• epigenetic changes,

• loss of proteostasis,

• disruption of mitochondrial function,

• cellular aging,

• stem cell depletion and

• changes in intercellular communication.

These mechanisms work in synergy and can induce adverse effects from cancer treatments, accumulation of DNA damage, cell cycle arrest, and expression of misfolded proteins. Thus, while other factors, such as unhealthy lifestyle (such as smoking) and genetically inherited risk profiles, are also likely to play a role, the observed associations between cancer history and functional decline are likely to be due to the negative effects of cancer treatments on the "characteristics of aging". are available.

It is not yet known whether the cause of rapid aging observed in the study is due to the effect of cancer and/or its treatment, the underlying behavioral, environmental, and genetic risk factors in the development of cancer, or a combination of these factors.

However, the results encourage researchers and experts to identify which cancer and cancer treatments are more likely to have this effect, and then develop interventions to prevent or reduce these negative effects. These interventions are; may include exercise therapies, nutrition, new pharmacological therapeutics, or supportive treatment strategies.

Additionally, prostate cancer survivors were more common in the study, followed by breast cancer and melanoma survivors. A notable limitation of the study, however, is the lack of data on the cancer stage at which individuals survived, pathology outcomes, or treatment characteristics.

Don't Worry

Newly diagnosed people often express that they are quite worried and nervous about what awaits them. Everyone worries about the expected effects of surgery or chemotherapy and radiation. No one likes hair loss and the unpleasant side effects of treatment. Some people are also concerned about the possible effects on their appearance.

Although there is no study that provides a clear explanation on the subject, we have heard sentences such as “Cancer has aged me ten years” from cancer patients or “I suddenly feel like I have aged five years compared to a year ago when I did not have cancer”.

Physical changes may include problems such as decreased energy or difficulty sleeping, but there are often certain differences as well; pain, sagging skin, decreased muscle mass, finer hair, lower libido, and wrinkles. However, it should be considered that wrinkles may be reasonable in exchange for living a longer life. Aging shouldn't be a big problem for you.


Kwon D. (27.12.2021). What Causes Cancer? There’s a Lot We Don’t Know. medscape.com