Does Depression Affect Cancer-related Mortality? Study Says Yes


Although the mortality rates of cancer in the U.S. declined over the past few years, it still remains to be the second leading cause of death, both in America and International.

1 out of every 6 deaths is associated with cancer. In the United States, cancer alone cause 600,000 deaths in the year 2016.

The WHO has estimated that about one-third of the deaths caused by cancer are due to modifiable risk factors and behaviors.

These behaviors include smoking, not exercising, eating, and not eating enough veggies and fruits. However, a new study has also found another critical factor to the list of things that affect a person’s outlook once they get a cancer diagnosis i.e. mental health.

The researchers of the current study set out to investigate whether psychiatric diagnosis affects cancer survival rates.

Increasing the Risk of Cancer Death by 73 Percent

Scientists examined the records of about 675000 people who had received a diagnosis for cancer. All the participants were adults and had been diagnosed between 1997 and 2014.

Most of the participants included in this study had received a diagnosis for one of the following ten types of cancer: breast cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, endometrial cancer, melanoma, oral cancer, and thyroid cancer.

Almost 50 percent of the people went through a psychiatric evaluation in the outpatient department. About 7900 of them received psychiatric help and more than 4000 were in the hospital because of a mental problem within 5 years of getting a diagnosis.

The study revealed that the risk of deaths related to cancer increased with the level of psychiatric help these people needed and got.

Specifically speaking:

  • People who got help from their primary care doctor about a mental issue had a 5 percent higher risk of dying from this disease.
  • Those whose mental health problems were treated as an emergency were 36 percent more likely to die
  • Getting hospitalized for mental health issue increased the possibility of cancer-related deaths by 73 percent.

This study was observational so causality could not be established. However, the lead authors have established some potential mechanisms that may support the findings.

The author thinks that psychological stress due to a mental health problem may affect the natural defense systems of the body. This may mean that mental health plays a large role in cancer outcomes, more than what the scientists previously thought.

Major stress and depression may affect the immune surveillance system of the body, hampering the ability of your body to detect cancer and fight it.

A recent psychiatric history must be a red flag to all the medical staff regarding the treatment of cancer patients. It is essential that the doctors keep an eye on the patients to make sure they receive the best care and necessary follow up.

The incidence of mental health diseases is currently on the rise. A strong link of these diseases with cancer rings alarms in the minds of the scientific community and urges the general public to take care of itself.


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Samantha Issac
Samantha is a graduate of Medicine with masters in Public Health. Most of her writings are in medicinal tools, technology, and treatments. In addition to that, she is a freelance healthcare writer based in the USA.


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