Education, incident cancer, and rate of memory decline in a national sample of US adults in mid-to-later-life.

TitleEducation, incident cancer, and rate of memory decline in a national sample of US adults in mid-to-later-life.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsOspina-Romero, M, Brenowitz, WD, M Glymour, M, Westrick, A, Graff, RE, Hayes-Larson, E, Mayeda, ERose, Ackley, SF, Kobayashi, LC
JournalJ Geriatr Oncol
ISSN Number1879-4076
KeywordsAged, Aging, Cancer Survivors, Educational Status, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Memory Disorders, Middle Aged, Neoplasms

INTRODUCTION: Middle-aged and older adults who develop cancer experience memory loss following diagnosis, but memory decline in the years before and after cancer diagnosis is slower compared to their cancer-free counterparts. Educational attainment strongly predicts memory function during aging, but it is unclear whether education protects against memory loss related to cancer incidence or modifies long-term memory trajectories in middle-aged and older cancer survivors.


p>MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data were from 14,449 adults (3,248 with incident cancer, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) aged 50+ in the population-based US Health and Retirement Study from 1998 to 2016. Memory was assessed every two years as a composite of immediate and delayed word recall tests and proxy assessments for impaired individuals. Memory scores all time points were standardized at to the baseline distribution. Using multivariate-adjusted linear mixed-effects models, we estimated rates of memory decline in the years before cancer diagnosis, shortly after diagnosis, and in the years after diagnosis. We compared rates of memory decline between incident cancer cases and age-matched cancer-free adults, overall and according to level of education (<12 years, "low"; 12 to <16 years, "intermediate"; ≥16 years, "high").

RESULTS: Incident cancer diagnoses were followed by short-term declines in memory averaging 0.06 standard deviation (SD) units (95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.084, -0.036). Those with low education experienced the strongest magnitude of short-term decline in memory after diagnosis (-0.10 SD units, 95% CI: -0.15, -0.05), but this estimate was not statistically significantly different from the short-term decline in memory experienced by those with high education (-0.04 SD units, 95% CI: -0.08, 0.01; p-value for education as an effect modifier = 0.15). In the years prior to and following an incident cancer diagnosis, higher educational attainment was associated with better memory, but it did not modify the difference in rate of long-term memory decline between cancer survivors and those who remained cancer-free.

DISCUSSION: Education was associated with better memory function over time among both cancer survivors and cancer-free adults aged 50 and over. Low education may be associated with a stronger short-term decline in memory after a cancer diagnosis.

Citation Key13291
PubMed ID37210786