Suicide risk rises in year following cancer diagnosis

(Lisa Rapaport/ Reuters) — Although cancer survival rates have greatly improved in recent decades, a diagnosis with certain types of cancer can still be upsetting enough to increase a patient’s risk of suicide, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers examined data on more than 4.6 million cancer patients, including 1,585 people who died by suicide within one year of their diagnosis. This was a suicide rate about 2.5 times higher than what would be expected in the general population, researchers report in the journal Cancer.

“For some patients with cancer, their death will ultimately not be a result of the diagnosis but rather, the emotional toll it will take on them,” said senior co-author Dr. Hesham Hamoda of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

“There are several mechanisms that have been proposed for why a cancer diagnosis can lead to suicide for some,” Hamoda said by email. “This includes things like depression and anxiety, pain, effects of cancer treatments (fatigue), the psychological and social impacts (patients may experience fear, alienation, disfigurement), and guilty feelings about life choices that may have impacted the risk for cancer (smoking as an example).” (…)

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