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New England Journal of Medicine

Clinical Articles, News & Views

Cancer diagnosis increases risk of suicide/CV death

Patients who have recently received a cancer diagnosis have increased risk of both suicide and death from cardiovascular causes, as compared with cancer-free persons, according to a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.1

The authors conducted a historical cohort study involving 6,073,240 people to examine the associations between a cancer diagnosis and the immediate risk of suicide or death from cardiovascular causes from 1991 through 2006. To adjust for unmeasured confounders, they also performed a nested, self-matched case-crossover analysis among all patients with cancer who died from suicide or cardiovascular diseases in the cohort.

As compared with cancer-free persons, the relative risk of suicide among patients receiving a cancer diagnosis was 12.6 during the first week and 3.1 during the first year.  The relative risk of cardiovascular death after diagnosis was 5.6 during the first week and 3.3 during the first 4 weeks.

The risk elevations decreased rapidly during the first year after diagnosis. Increased risk was particularly prominent for cancers with a poor prognosis. The case-crossover analysis largely confirmed results from the main analysis.  The authors assert that receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a traumatic experience that may trigger immediate adverse health consequences beyond the effects of the disease or treatment.

The research was supported by grants from the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research and the Swedish Research Council and by postdoctoral fellowships (to Dr Fang) from Hjärnfonden and Svenska Sällskapet för Medicinsk Forskning.


1. Fang F, Fall K, Mittleman MA, Pär Sparén PH, Ye W, Adami H-O, Valdimarsdóttir U.  Suicide and cardiovascular death after a cancer diagnosis. N Engl J Med 2012;366:1310–8.

Published on: June 25, 2012

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