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Depression can raise cancer death rates

A study has found that in patients with cancer, death rates were up to 25 per cent higher in those showing symptoms of depression

A study by the University of British Columbia has found that in patients with cancer, death rates were up to 25 per cent higher in those showing symptoms of depression. In patients actually diagnosed with major or minor depression, death rates were up to 39 per cent higher.

The study, a review of 26 separate studies, included 9,417 patients. The researchers said, however, that more research was needed regarding the impact of other factors, before any definitive conclusions were made, and that from the very limited studies carried out, they could find no firm evidence that depression impacted on the progression of the disease.

Theories as to why depression impacts on survival rates include the conjecture that it impacts on hormones or the immune system, or that depressed people may be less likely to comply with treatment regimens.

Lead researcher Jillian Satin said: "It is quite remarkable that the presence of depressive symptoms or a diagnosis of a depressive disorder can predict mortality in cancer patients." However, he added that "it should be kept in mind that the increased risk is quite small".

Dr Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research UK, said: "This research adds weight to the importance of identifying depression early in people with cancer and offering them appropriate support and care." She added: "The effects observed in this study are quite small and may be due to other factors. More research will be needed to explain whether these observations are true and if so why."

14th September 2009


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