Prostate Cancer: 'Uncontrollable': US Cancer Patient Develops Irish Accent

A man from North Carolina puzzles scientists.

Prostate Cancer: 'Uncontrollable': US Cancer Patient Develops Irish Accent

A man from North Carolina puzzles scientists. He had never visited Ireland in his life, but for years he spoke like a genuine Irishman. More precisely, since he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. That's according to a case study published by Duke University doctors in the British Medical Journal.

According to this, the patient, who has since died, developed the accent 20 months after the start of his treatment - and kept it until his death. "His accent was uncontrollable, present in all situations and becoming more and more persistent," the authors report. Further information such as the man's name or nationality was not given in the study. What is known is that he died in his fifties and was treated in the United States.

The phenomenon that people adopt foreign accents without having come into direct contact with them themselves is called "foreign language accent syndrome" (FAS) in science. It occurs very rarely, usually after a stroke or traumatic brain injury. The patient from North Carolina is nevertheless a novelty in research. 'To our knowledge, this is the first case of FAS that has been described in a patient with prostate cancer,' the study authors write.

The man had lived in England in his twenties and also had distant relatives in Ireland. However, he himself was never in the country. He had "no neurological examination abnormalities, no psychiatric history or MRI abnormalities of the brain at the onset of symptoms," the study says. "Despite chemotherapy, his neuroendocrine prostate cancer progressed, resulting in multifocal brain metastases and a probable paraneoplastic ascending paralysis that led to his death."

The scientists suspect that the accent can be traced back to a paraneoplastic neurological disorder. This describes complications in tumor diseases that are not triggered by the tumor itself or its metastases. The immune system of cancer patients attacks their muscles, nerves and spinal cord.

In other cases, the FAS occurred, for example, with a Norwegian woman who spoke with a German accent after a skull injury. An English woman took on a French accent after a severe migraine attack. Last year, the case of a young Dutchman became known who had to undergo general anesthesia for knee surgery and was then unable to understand or speak his native language for 24 hours, and only spoke English.

Sources: "British Medical Journal" / BBC / "Mirror"