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Br J Cancer. 2005 Mar 28;92(6):995-1000.

Suicides among Danish cancer patients 1971-1999.

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  • 1Department of Cancer Prevention and Documentation, Danish Cancer Society, Strandboulevarden 49, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark.


Compared to the general population, the suicide risk among Danish cancer patients diagnosed in 1971-1986 was increased by 50% for men and 30% for women. We updated the earlier study to evaluate both long-term and recent trends in the suicide risk. Cancer patients with a first cancer diagnosed between 1971 and 1999 in Denmark were followed-up for completed suicide through 1999. Excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer, 564 508 cancer patients were included and 1241 suicides observed. Both the standardised mortality ratio (SMR) of suicide relative to the general population and the suicide rates were analysed with Poisson regression methods. The overall SMR was increased to 1.7 (95% CI. 1.6-1.9) for men and 1.4 (95% CI: 1.3-1.5) for women. Following the cancer diagnosis, the suicide risk was highest in the first 3 months for men and between months 3 and 12 for women. The risk was higher for nonlocalized cancer and for cancers with perceived poor prognosis. Breast cancer patients had a higher risk than other cancer patients with similar good prognosis. The suicide rates among cancer patients decreased with calendar time, but less so than the rates in the general population. The suicide risk among cancer patients has not decreased as much as in the Danish population and reasons for this should be explored. Breast cancer might be believed by patients to be more life threatening than it is. Assessment and treatment of depression could improve the quality of life for cancer patients who suffer from unrecognised depressions and in turn reduce the risk of suicide in cancer patients.

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