Depression tied to early death in cancer survivors

Updated: May 18, 2013, 13:20 PM IST

New York: Depressed cancer survivors are twice as likely to die prematurely than those who do not suffer from depression, a new study has warned.

Floortje Mols and colleagues, from Tilburg University in The Netherlands, examined whether depressive symptoms observed between one and ten years after cancer diagnosis were linked to an increased risk of premature death two to three years later.

Their work focused on survivors of endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, lymphoma or multiple myeloma, where little work looking at this potential link has been done to date.

They analysed data collected from several large population-based surveys in 2008 and 2009. A total of 3,080 cancer survivors completed questionnaires to identify symptoms of depression.

The authors found that depressive symptoms increased the risk of death: clinically high levels of depressive symptoms were more common in those who died than in those who survived.

Overall, after controlling for treatment, type of cancer, co-morbidity, and metastasis, one-to-ten-year cancer survivors with depression were twice as likely to have died 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," researchers said.

"We also need to better understand whether treatments for depressive symptoms in cancer patients have life-prolonging effects," they added.

The study was published in Springer`s Journal of Cancer Survivorship.