Breast cancer survivors have increased suicide risk

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Breast cancer survivors are 37 percent more likely to commit suicide than other women, and the elevated risk persists for at least 25 years after diagnosis, according to a report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Previous studies have looked at suicide risk in breast cancer survivors, but most have not examined the long-term risk and none have included women in the U.S., note Dr. Catherine Schairer, from the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, and colleagues.

Their study involved an analysis of data for 723,810 breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed between 1953 and 2001 and were included in population-based cancer registries in the United States and Scandinavia.

During follow-up through 2002, a total of 836 women committed suicide. Compared with the general population the women with breast cancer had a suicide rate of 4.1 per 100,000 women per year.

After 25 or more years, breast cancer survivors still had a 35 percent increased risk of suicide. Black cancer survivors were most likely to commit suicide, with a 2.88-fold elevated risk. The risk of suicide also rose as the cancer stage increased, the authors note.

"Although the cumulative probability of suicide is small, our results suggest that long-term follow-up programs for breast cancer survivors should include resources devoted to psychosocial concerns," the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, October 4, 2006.

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