University of Utah School of Medicine researchers have found compelling evidence that Parkinson's disease (PD) is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer and melanoma, and that this increased cancer risk also extends to close and distant relatives of individuals with PD. Although a link between PD and melanoma has been suspected before, this is the first time that an increased risk of prostate cancer has been reported in PD. PD is a progressive neurologic condition that leads to tremors and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination. Most studies demonstrate that individuals with PD have an overall decreased rate of cancer, with the notable exception of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Previous research has suggested a possible genetic link between PD and melanoma, but these studies have been limited to first-degree relatives who often share a similar environment, making it difficult to distinguish between genetic and environmental risk factors. "Neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease may share common disease-causing mechanisms with some cancers," says Dr. Stefan-M. Pulst, professor and chair of the department of neurology, at the University of Utah, and co-author on this study. "Using the Utah Population Database, we were able to explore the association of PD with different types of cancer by studying cancer risk in individuals with PD, as well as their close and distant relatives." The Utah Population Database (UPDB) includes birth, death, and family relationship data for over 2.2 million individuals, including genealogy data from the original Utah pioneers.
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