Cross sectional association between cytomegalovirus seropositivity, inflammation and cognitive impairment in elderly cancer survivors

Cancer Causes Control. 2022 Jan;33(1):81-90. doi: 10.1007/s10552-021-01504-3. Epub 2021 Oct 12.


Purpose: The higher prevalence of cognitive impairment/ dementia among cancer survivors is likely multifactorial. Since both exposures to cytomegalovirus (CMV) and inflammation are common among elderly cancer survivors, we evaluated their contribution towards dementia.

Methods: Data from 1387 cancer survivors and 7004 participants without cancer in the 2016 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) was used in this study. Two inflammatory biomarkers, C-reactive protein (CRP) and neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio (NLR), were used to create an inflammation score. We used survey logistic regression adjusted for survey design parameters.

Results: CMV seropositivity was not associated with cognitive impairment among cancer survivors (p = 0.2). In addition, inflammation was associated with elevated odds of cognitive impairment (OR = 2.2, 95% CI [1.2, 4.2]). Cancer survivors who were both CMV seropositive and had increased inflammation had the highest odds of cognitive impairment compared to those who were CMV seronegative and had low inflammation (OR = 3.8, 95% CI [1.5, 9.4]). The stratified analysis among cancer survivors showed this association was seen only among cancer survivors in whom the cancer was diagnosed within three years of measurement of inflammation score and CMV serostatus (OR = 18.5; 95% CI [6.1, 56.1]).

Conclusion: The CMV seropositivity and high inflammation was associated with higher cognitive impairment among cancer survivors. The stronger associations seen among cancer survivors diagnosed within the last three years suggest that strategies to reduce CMV activation and inflammation during or immediately after cancer treatment may be important in reducing the prevalence of cognitive impairment/ dementia among cancer survivors.

Keywords: CMV seropositivity; Cancer survivor; Dementia; Inflammation; Older adults.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cancer Survivors*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / epidemiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / complications
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology