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J Oral Pathol Med. 2008 May;37(5):255-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0714.2008.00635.x. Epub 2008 Feb 26.

Mood and malignancy: head and neck cancer and depression.

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  • 1Barts and The London, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Centre for Psychiatry, London, UK.


Head and neck cancer patients have been reported to show high rates of depression. However, it is important to differentiate between depressive symptoms and a depressive disorder. This review critically examines the relationship between head and neck cancer and depression. There appears to be little evidence for depression leading to an increased risk of developing cancer and although depressive symptoms in head and neck cancer patients are common, very few studies have investigated depressive disorders. The studies that investigated the incidence of a comorbid depressive disorder report a prevalence very close to that of the general population, implying that major depression is not a normal response to cancer. Finally, the evidence suggests that comorbidity of depression with cancer has a negative impact on morbidity and mortality. Both psychosocial and biological factors could account for this. Dysregulation of the stress hormone axis and increased inflammation are common in depressive disorders and have been suggested as underlying pathological mechanisms and are both markers of poor prognosis in cancer. This evidence suggests that a relatively small number of patients develop a depressive disorder following a diagnosis of cancer, but for those that do it may have a substantial impact on their prognosis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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