Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Older Patients With Cancer at Heightened Suicide Risk

The Washington Post has reported that three recent studies published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates that people with cancer experience a higher risk for suicide.

The first study that was done at the University of Washington analyzed US data from 1973 - 2002. The study found that the suicide rate among cancer patients was 31.4 per 100,000 people as compared to 16.7 per 100,000 people among the general population.

The second study that was done at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School compared 128 New Jersey residents, age 65 and older who committed suicide between 1994 - 2002 to 1280 people of the same age group who did not commit suicide. The study found that the risk of suicide was 2.3 times greater among people with cancer.

The third study that was done at the University of Edinborough Scotland surveyed 2924 cancer patients and they found that 8 percent of people with cancer had serious suicidal thoughts. A similar survey in Australia found that 2.6 percent of the average population had similar suicidal thoughts.

"The University of Edinburgh team found that suicidal thoughts among cancer patients were associated with having substantial emotional distress or pain, but not with cancer severity. Better management of patients' emotional distress and pain may improve quality of life and reduce suicide risk, the researchers concluded."

Dr. Timothy Quill wrote that:
"It is important to ask about suicidal thoughts regularly, especially when disease is worsening, symptoms are increasing, or the patient is entering a more serious phase of illness ... Creating an environment where these issues can be openly explored without being judged is critical,"

Link to the commentary:

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