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Early Recognition of Depression May Benefit Cancer Survivors

Risk of depression higher in year following diagnosis, with excess risk often lingering

THURSDAY, Feb. 19 (HealthDay News) -- People diagnosed with cancer may face an increased risk of depression that persists for years, according to research published online Feb. 17 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Susanne O. Dalton, M.D., Ph.D., of the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues analyzed data from nearly 6 million individuals living in Denmark or born there since 1973, of whom 608,591 received a cancer diagnosis.

During the follow-up period through 2003, the researchers report that there were 121,304 hospitalizations for depression. The risk of hospital admission for depression was higher in the year after a cancer diagnosis, with a relative risk of 2.02 for men and 1.87 for women. In general, the risk of hospitalization for depression decreased in following years after cancer diagnosis, but remained significantly elevated for cancers at most sites, the investigators found. The higher risk persisted during the study period following hormone-related cancers in men and women, and smoking-related cancers in women, the report indicates.

This study "confirms the increased risk for depression of patients facing a disruptive event like cancer, often with debilitating treatment and consequences for life ahead. The increased risk was found across a wide spectrum of cancer sites and for years after the disease was diagnosed. Early recognition and effective treatment of depression, both in the cancer setting and beyond, would have the potential to prevent admission for depression and thus reduce patient suffering and enhance the quality of life of cancer survivors," the authors conclude.

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