December 10, 2007

People With Schizophrenia Less Likely To Develop Cancer?

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

Several new studies which were presented last week at the yearly meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ANCP) demonstrated that a genetic link exists between cancer and schizophrenia. Specifically, the studies found that people who suffer from schizophrenia are less likely than are the rest of the population to develop cancer.

The findings are particularly interesting when considering the unhealthy lifestyles many people who suffer from schizophrenia engage in. Though we've discussed how these poor lifestyle habits put people with schizophrenia at a much higher risk for developing health problems such as heart and cardiovascular disease, it seems that they have no effect on the development of cancer for the schizophrenic population, i.e., they don't increase the likelihood of developing cancer for this population.

Researchers have discovered that the illnesses cancer and schizophrenia share several of the same genes. According to researchers at the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), these genes are used in opposite ways by the cells who have them in the two disorders:

While cancer results from changes in the genes that cause cells to go into metabolic overdrive and multiply rapidly, those same genes cause cells in schizophrenia to slow to a crawl..."We found that many of the same genes are involved in schizophrenia as in cancer, but in a yin and yang way. This will provide critical insight into the molecular structure of schizophrenia," said lead researcher and ACNP member Dr. Daniel Weinberger of NIMH. Some of the genes showing this yin-yang effect include NRG1, AKT1, PIK3, COMT, PRODH and ErbB4. While these genes can't be used to predict exactly who will develop these diseases, Dr. Weinberger says they can be used to help determine risk.

Another researcher, Dr. Amanda Law of the University of Oxford, who heads one of the teams working at the NIMH, has explored specific genetic pathways that cells use to make basic decisions about their development and their fate, and says:

"This is about basic decision making by cells--whether to multiply, move or change their basic architecture," says Dr. Law. "Cancer and schizophrenia may be strange bedfellows that have similarities at the molecular level. The differences lie in how cells respond to external stimuli: in cancer the molecular system functions to speed up the cell and in schizophrenia the system is altered in such a way that causes the cell to slow down." Law adds that selective targeting of these pathways may be a potential target in developing treatments for schizophrenia.

"It's very curious that a brain disorder associated with very complicated human behavior has at a genetic and cellular level a striking overlap with cancer, a very non-behavior related disorder. Understanding these pathways might provide us with some new strategies for thinking about cancer," said Dr. Weinberger.

Dr. Weinberger believes that future research involves using this information to search for therapeutic insights that can reverse these processes, with implications not only for treatment of schizophrenia, but also maybe for cancer as well.

Source: American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Related Stories:
Schizophrenia and An Increased Risk for A Ruptured Appendix
Type I Diabetes and a Lower Risk for Schizophrenia
Research on Diabetes, Heart Attack & Stroke Risks for People Suffering From Schizophrenia


I assumed the opposite was true, because we consume so many chemicals in the form of medications.

Posted by: Heywood at December 10, 2007 04:34 PM


Patients with schizophrenia have a significantly higher risk of colon cancer and a lower risk of respiratory cancer compared with patients without schizophrenia after adjustment for confounders. In contrast, the risks of cancer in patients with and without bipolar disorder are similar, suggesting that residual confounding is unlikely to explain the findings. The increased risk of colon cancer is particularly marked in patients with schizophrenia who take antipsychotic medications.

Posted by: CopperKettle at December 11, 2007 09:11 PM

The authors found that as far back as the 1950s the industry was collecting correspondence and other material from medical journals proposing that patients with schizophrenia have low rates of cancer despite high rates of smoking. The CTR and other industry organizations funded studies—later discredited—asserting that patients with schizophrenia are less likely to develop cancer from smoking because they did not repress grief and other emotions as strongly as those in the general population.

Recent studies have revealed that individuals with schizophrenia have a higher risk of developing diseases associated with cigarette smoking, including lung cancer (Lichtermann et al., 2001),

Posted by: CopperKettle at December 11, 2007 09:15 PM

Then can chemotheraphy be used to treat schizophrenia? My mother in law was diagnoised with being bipolar she then developed breast cancer and resently became schizophrenic (untreatable). Any suggestions

Posted by: Kim Martin at May 12, 2008 07:23 PM

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