Depression

Higher risk of suicide found in young adult cancer patients

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - 00:10 GMT Jump to Comments

Young adults diagnosed with cancer are 60 per cent more likely to commit or attempt suicide, reveals a study published today in Annals of Oncology.

The study, which looked at 8 million Swedes aged 15 and over, revealed that suicidal behaviour was found to be 150 per cent higher in the cancer patients during the year after diagnosis in comparison to the healthy participants of the study.

The findings reveal the importance of mental care to be included in the clinical care of young cancer patients, especially for those with pre-existing psychiatric conditions or individuals with the worst prognosis.

Dr Donghao Lu, a PhD student at the Karolina Institutet in Stockholm said “Given that young people are still developing their coping strategies for stress, they may be more affected than adults when facing major adversity such as a cancer diagnosis".

“Although the absolute risk of suicidal behaviour is modest among the cancer patients, it emphasises the need to support and carefully monitor these vulnerable young people”.

Over the average follow up period of 17.4 years, more men committed suicide than women in the cancer patient group.

However, only a very small proportion of patients committed or attempted suicide immediately after diagnosis.

Researchers concluded that suicidal behaviour could be explained by the intense emotional stress that can follow a cancer diagnosis.

The findings of this study are “likely to represent just the tip of the iceberg of the mental suffering of young cancer patients”.

Dr Lu goes on to comment that “our findings have important implications for the relatives and other people involved in the healthcare of the young cancer patients”.

These findings cannot be applied to other countries outside of Sweden but it is likely that results would be similar.

Studies carried out in the USA, Australia and Japan found increased suicide rates in adult cancer patients.

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