Cancer Patients More at Risk of Suicide

The danger is most prominent among people with certain cancers and/or in certain age groups.

News from the front in the war against cancer has been relatively positive recently, with the obvious caveat that nobody, but nobody, wants that diagnosis. Meanwhile, the news about suicide prevention has been pretty bad

The two problems intersect in a study in Nature Communication in which researchers with Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine look at suicide rates for 8.6 million people with invasive cancer between 1973 to 2014. In that population, 13,311 (0.15%) committed suicide, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer

That might seem small, percent wise, but not when compared to the risk of suicide among the general population. Also, the problem may be getting worse, because the rate documented by Penn State researchers is twice what they found in a similar study that they conducted in 2002.

“For patients diagnosed before age 50, most suicides occurred with leukemia and lymphomas,” the newspaper reports. “With patients diagnosed after age 50, the highest risk was with cancer of the prostate, lungs, bladder or colorectal cancer, especially among white, unmarried men.”

The study states that “relative risk of suicide, vs. the general population, is highest in those with cancer of the lung, head and neck, testes, and Hodgkin lymphoma. This relative risk of suicide decreases for most patients followed more than five years after diagnosis; however, risk remains elevated or rises for those with Hodgkin lymphoma and testicular cancer.”