Depression ups risk of cancer death

Death rates among depressed cancer patients are 25 per cent higher, study shows

Doctors must carefully monitor cancer patients for signs of psychological distress, according to a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia, who found that depression hurts a cancer patient’s chance of survival. According to the study, a review of 26 separate studies including 9,417 patients, death rates were up to 25 per cent higher in patients showing symptoms of depression. In patients who were diagnosed with major or minor depression, death rates were up to 39 per cent higher. In fact, animal research has suggested that stress can impact tumour growth and cancer spread, maybe because of its affect on hormones and the immune system, or certain behaviours that might make them less likely to comply with treatment regimes, for example. Even so, researchers stressed that the increased risk of dying from cancer due to depression is small, so patients shouldn’t stress about maintaining a positive attitude. Researchers found no solid evidence to show that depression impacted disease progression. “It is quite remarkable that the presence of depressive symptoms or a diagnosis of a depressive disorder can predict mortality in cancer patients. But it should be kept in mind that the increased risk is quite small,” lead researcher Jillian Satin told the BBC. “Cancer patients need not panic if they are experiencing depressive symptoms, but it is certainly reasonable to talk to their physicians about their mental health.”

BBC News

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