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Suicide Risk Rises Following Cancer Diagnosis

HealthDay News
by -- Steven Reinberg
Updated: Jan 7th 2019

new article illustration

MONDAY, Jan. 7, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- A cancer diagnosis can be tough to take, and a new study finds many patients contemplate suicide.

That risk is most pronounced in the year following the diagnosis, researchers reported.

The risk for suicide among newly diagnosed cancer patients also varies by the type of cancer, they added.

"Both cancer and suicide are leading causes of death and present a major public health challenge," said study co-leader Dr. Hesham Hamoda, of Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

It's important to screen newly diagnosed patients for their risk of suicide and make sure they have access to social and emotional support, the investigators said.

For the study, Hamoda and his colleagues looked at data on U.S. cancer patients in a national database between 2000 and 2014. This database represents about 28 percent of Americans with cancer.

Among nearly 4.6 million patients, almost 1,600 died by suicide within a year of their diagnosis, which is a 2.5 times greater risk than what's seen in the general population.

The greatest risk was among people with pancreatic and lung cancer. The risk also increased significantly after a diagnosis of colon cancer, but the risk didn't increase significantly after breast and prostate cancer diagnoses, the researchers found. The study did not prove that a cancer diagnosis actually causes suicide risk to rise.

The report was published online Jan. 7 in the journal Cancer.

"Our study highlights the fact that for some patients with cancer, their mortality will not be a direct result of the cancer itself, but rather because of the stress of dealing with it, culminating in suicide," Hamoda said in a journal news release. "This finding challenges us all to ensure that psychosocial support services are integrated early in cancer care."

More information

The American Cancer Society offers more on coping with cancer.