Study Finds Women Who Undergo Breast Cancer Treatment May Age Faster Than Those Who Don’t

A new study discovered women who undergo breast cancer treatment may age faster than those who don’t.

According to a news release from the National Institutes of Health, women who have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer have “increased biological aging” compared to women who have never had breast cancer.

Photo: Pexels/Anna Shvets

The news release notes that researchers believe it’s not actually the cancer that causes women to age. Instead, it’s radiation therapy.

The authors wrote: “The association with faster biological aging was most pronounced for those who received radiation therapy, while surgery showed no association with biological aging. This finding suggests that developing cancer is not what increases the aging effect.”

Researchers measured biological age by looking a person’s cell and tissue health. The study involved 417 women over a span of several years; half of the women developed breast cancer during that time span.


The women were already enrolled in the Sister Study, which aims to identify environmental risk factors for breast cancer.

Out of the 417 participants, the women who were diagnosed with breast cancer had faster aging rates compared to women who did not develop breast cancer. Race didn’t seem to play a significant role in the differences.

While the results may be surprising, those undergoing breast cancer treatment shouldn’t forgo radiation due to aging concerns.

Photo: Thirdman/

According to the news release, Dale Sandler, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch and a co-author on the paper, said: “Radiation is a valuable treatment option for breast cancer, and we don’t yet know why it was most strongly associated with biological age. This finding supports efforts to minimize radiation exposures when possible and to find ways to mitigate adverse health effects among the approximately 4 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States.”

Katie O’Brien, Ph.D., and study co-author, added, “Women faced with a breast cancer diagnosis should discuss all possible treatment options with their doctors to determine the best course of treatment for them.”

You can read the full paper here.

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