People suffering from Huntington's disease, a debilitating brain condition, appear to have a "protection" from cancer, according to a new study. A team from the Lund University in Sweden analysed nearly 40 years of medical records and found that patients with Huntington's diseases had half the normal expected risk of developing tumours.
The researchers, however, said the reason behind the link was not clear, but it presents another avenue to explore ways to tackle cancer, the BBC reported.
For the study, published in The Lancet Oncology, the team analysed Swedish hospital data from 1969 to 2008. They found 1,510 patients with Huntington's disease, and 91 of those subsequently developed cancer during the study period.
The authors said that was 53 per cent lower than the levels expected for the general population. Huntington's is one of a group of illnesses called "polyglutamine diseases". Data from other polyglutamine diseases also showed lower levels of cancer. The authors said: "We found that the incidence of cancer was significantly lower among patients with polyglutamine diseases than in the general population.
"The mechanisms behind the protective effects against cancer are unclear and further research is warranted." Dr Jianguang Ji, from the Center for Primary Health Care Research at Lund University, said: "Clarification of the mechanism underlying the link between polyglutamine diseases and cancer in the future could lead to the development of new treatment options for cancer."
Eleanor Barrie, at Cancer Research UK, said: "These are interesting results. It's not clear how the genetic changes that cause Huntington's and other similar diseases could protect against cancer, and research in the lab will help to find out more.
"Scientists at Cancer Research UK and around the world are probing the genetic faults that contribute to cancer in their quest to beat the disease, and this is another potential avenue to explore."