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Cancer Diagnosis Linked To Higher Risk Of Suicide And Heart Attack


Cancer Diagnosis Linked To Higher Risk Of Suicide And Heart Attack

According to a study  conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, people who find they have cancer  have higher rates of suicide and cardiovascular disease. The suicide rate and cardiovascular disease among cancer patients are due to depression and negative emotions that usually accompany such diagnoses. Moral and emotional support from family is extremely important in such cases. Psychological stress of such a diagnosis has sometimes serious consequences such as suicide or increased risk of coronary heart disease. Moreover, the mental state of the cancer patient can modulate his body reaction to treatment.

Cancer Diagnosis

The study was conducted on a sample of six million Swedish patients aged over 30 years, between 191 and 2006. Of these, over 500,000 have been diagnosed with cancer. The most common was prostate cancer, breast, colorectal, lymphatic or hematopoietic, lung and central nervous system cancer. Besides the six main categories, a special category was the highly fatal cancer group such as prostate cancer, esophagus and liver.
The results of the study have shown a higher rate of suicide and cardiovascular disease among individuals diagnosed with cancer than among those without cancer. The relative risk of suicide decreased with time from the moment of diagnosis. The greatest risk was in the first week after diagnosis, followed by the period of 12 weeks from diagnosis. Also the scientists registered the highest risk for cancers of the esophagus, liver and pancreas followed by breast cancer. Even if risk decreases with time since diagnosis, the risk still remains high in the first year, which applies to all types of cancer.

It is very important to note that the incidence rate of suicide was higher among patients with preexisting psychiatric illness. However, the relative risk of suicide after cancer diagnosis was higher among patients without coexisting psychiatric pathology. The same trend was observed among cases with cardiovascular disease. Incidence rate of cardiovascular disease was higher among patients with preexisting pathology, but the relative risk was higher among patients without previous cardiovascular problems.

Therefore, the patient’s psychological stress in finding the diagnosis of cancer may influence not only the treatment compliance, but can have serious consequences such as increased risk of cardiovascular disease and even suicide. This risk is of course higher for aggressive cancers such as esophagus, liver, pancreas. Also, the risk of suicide is greatest during the first week after diagnosis.”Our study may, we hope, lead to improvements in the care of newly diagnosed cancer patients and hopefully diminish the risk of stress-related disease and death,” says Dr Fang Fang.