Depressed Cancer Survivors more Likely to Die Prematurely: Study

First Posted: May 17, 2013 09:01 AM EDT

In a new study, researchers from Tilburg University state that depressed cancer survivors are twice more likely to die a premature death when compared to those survivors who are not depressed.

According to the study led by Floortje Mols and colleagues, there has been a hike in the number of cancer cases over the last few decades. A number of patients survive this chronic disease with the help of advanced treatments, however, survivors face an ongoing problem due to the process of cancer treatment, and this causes a high occurrence of depression.

The study team examined whether symptoms of depression observed between one and 10 years after cancer diagnosis were associated with an increased risk of premature death between two to three years later.  Researchers focused on those who survived endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, multiple myeloma or lymphoma.

They collected data from large population-based surveys that were conducted in 2008 and 2009. Nearly 3,080 cancer survivors answered their questionnaires, which made it easy to identify the symptoms of depression.

The researchers noticed that those with depressive symptoms had a higher risk of death. Depressive symptoms were more common in those who had died than those who survived. Overall, cancer survivors who were depressed were twice as likely to die early.

"Paying attention to the recognition and treatment of depressive symptoms in this patient group is key. The next step is to investigate the possible mechanisms that might explain the association between depressive symptoms and death from cancer. We also need to better understand whether treatments for depressive symptoms in cancer patients have life-prolonging effects," the researchers said in a press statement.

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