Patients diagnosed with cancer have elevated suicide risk, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, held from June 3 to 7 in Chicago.
Xuesong Han, Ph.D., from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues used a recent dataset to examine the range of patients’ sociodemographic and clinical factors that may be associated with suicide risks. Patients diagnosed with cancer in the United States were identified for the period from 2000 to 2016.
The researchers found that 47.5 percent of the 16,771,397 patients died during the study period, including 0.3 percent from suicide. The overall standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for suicide was 1.26, which decreased from 1.67 to 1.16 from 2000 to 2016. Compared with the general population, the highest suicide risks were seen for patients aged 65 to 69 years, Hispanic patients, those uninsured, those insured with Medicaid, and those aged 64 years or younger with Medicare (SMRs, 1.44, 1.48, 1.66, 1.72, and 1.94, respectively). The highest suicide risk was observed within two years of diagnosis (SMRs, 7.19, 5.60, and 4.18 for five months or less, six to 11 months, and 12 to 23 months after diagnosis, respectively). In the two years following diagnosis, the risk for suicide was higher in patients with distant-stage versus early-stage disease (hazard ratio, 1.29) and for patients with cancers with poor prognosis and high symptom burden, including cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, stomach, brain, lung, and pancreas (hazard ratios, from 1.23 to 2.10 compared with colorectal cancer).
“Tailored social and psych-oncological interventions are warranted for suicide prevention in this vulnerable population,” the authors write.
Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
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