1 June 2021

The Maarten van der Weijden Foundation, founded by top swimmer Maarten van der Weijden, supports several innovative cancer research projects each year. One of the three selected this year is Radboudumc research into the prevention of cancer in people with intellectual disabilities.

Researchers Maarten Cuypers and Professor Geraline Leusink of the Department of Primary Care Medicine and AVG doctor Agnies van Eeghen ('s Heeren Loo care group and Amsterdam UMC) are very pleased that the Maarten van der Weijden Foundation will be actively focusing on funding for their joint research.
 Maarten Cuypers: 'Internationally, you see that people with intellectual disabilities participate less often in studies or population screening, and that other risk factors play a role in getting cancer and that they are diagnosed at a later stage than other people. This suspicion also exists in the Netherlands, but has not yet been investigated. 'We know from our own national studies with health insurance data and the death register, that people with intellectual disabilities are less likely to receive oncological care, even though they are relatively younger than other people when they die of cancer.'

Increased Risks

So where might these increased risks of cancer lie? Maarten Cuypers: "If the intellectual disability has a genetic cause, which is often the case - certainly if the disability is severe - that can also play a role in the risk of cancer. All the other risk factors that we know for everyone, such as ageing, smoking, sunlight and lifestyle also apply to people with intellectual disabilities, but to a different extent. For example, their life expectancy is generally lower, but aging occurs earlier. People with severe disabilities smoke less, but people with mild intellectual disabilities smoke more. They also often have a poor lifestyle: poor nutrition, a lot of excess weight, little exercise".

Something to hold on to for care providers

The aim of the new study is to provide more guidance for caregivers of people with intellectual disabilities. With the results, Maarten, Geraline and Agnies want to draw up a guideline for cancer screening and prevention, and they hope to prevent cancer in this target group and/or increase their chances of recovery. Maarten Cuypers: "With this guideline advice, doctors and caretakers in care organizations for mentally disabled people will be better informed about the specific risks they need to pay attention to, for example during screening or preventive research, such as population screening for mentally disabled people". 

Maarten van der Weijden will soon start the recruitment campaign for this project, which is incidentally linked to his Swim 4 Day Week (12 to 19 September 2021). Maarten van der Weijden: 'Hopefully there will be enough money in September this year to start this four-year study.' The target amount is 369,000 euros.

More information

More information can be found on this website. There you can also donate.
Previously, an article appeared on the Internet about the earlier research with this target group, focused on oncological care use (in Dutch).


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