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Suicide Risk Up After Cancer Diagnosis in Rural, Poor Counties

Risk highest in the first year after diagnosis, but remains higher in those living in the lowest-income counties

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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 27, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Among individuals diagnosed with cancer, there is a significantly higher suicide risk for those living in the lowest-income counties and in rural settings, according to a study published online Oct. 19 in JAMA Network Open.

Ryan Suk, Ph.D., from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and colleagues examined risks and patterns of suicide mortality among people with a cancer diagnosis by U.S. county-level median income and rural or urban status. The analysis included 5,362,782 individuals diagnosed with cancer between 2000 and 2016 living in 635 counties identified through the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program 18 registries.

The researchers found that people with cancer living in the lowest-income counties had a significantly higher risk (standardized mortality ratio [SMR], 1.94) than those in the highest-income counties (SMR, 1.30). Similar results were seen for those living in rural versus urban counties (SMRs, 1.81 and 1.35, respectively). SMRs were the highest within the first year following cancer diagnosis for all county groups. However, risk remained significantly high even 10 years or more following cancer diagnosis among people living in the lowest-income counties (SMR, 1.83).

"This study's findings suggest that efforts to provide increased preventive mental health services for individuals with cancer, especially for those living in low-income and rural areas, are needed," the authors write.

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