Risk for suicide among prostate cancer patients

An article just published in the journal Cancer states that — at least here in the USA — there was no significant increase in risk for suicide within the first year after diagnosis among men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2000 and 2014 (compared to the risk for suicide among the general population). However, there was an increased risk for suicide among the men initially diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer.

Similar findings appear to be true for breast cancer, and both results are in contrast to a clear increase in risk for suicide among cancer patients overall over the same time period (compared to the risk in the general population).

This new article by Saad et al. is based on data from 4,671,989 patients in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database between 2000 and 2014. These data equate to about 28 percent of the U.S. population of cancer patients over the same time frame. Of these 4,671,989 patients, 1,585 or 0.034 percent committed suicide within 1 year of their diagnosis.

According to the primary author,

This is the largest study to assess recent trends in suicide risk after a cancer diagnosis in the US population.

It is reasonably well known that suicide is one of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S., and death from suicide is more common among cancer patients than it is in the general population.

What Saad and his colleagues showed in this new study — in addition to the low increase in risk for men diagnosed with prostate cancer and women with breast cancer was that, over the 15 years from 2000 to 2014,

  • Suicides occurred 2.51 times more often in cancer patients overall that in the general US population.
  • The highest increase in risk was seen following diagnosis with pancreatic and lung cancers.
  • The risk of suicide also increased significantly following a diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
  • There were 166 men who committed suicide out of 709,590 diagnosed with prostate cancer.
    • 144/675,116 of these men (0.017 percent) committed suicide after a diagnosis with localized prostate cancer.
    • 22/34,474 of these men (0.064 percent) committed suicide after a diagnosis with “distant” (i.e., metastatic) disease.
  • Overall, men with cancer were far more likely to commit suicide within 1 year of diagnosis that women with cancer.
    • 1,379/2,401,901 suicides among males (0.057 percent)
    • 206/2,270,088 suicides among women (0.009 percent)

Despite these data, the observed rates risk for suicides among the prostate cancer patients (compared to the expected rate for a comparable cohort of men without prostate cancer) were still only

  • 0.87 among the men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer
  • 2.84 among the men diagnosed with distant prostate cancer

In other words, men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer were actually less likely to commit suicide within 12 months after a diagnosis than were similar men with no diagnosis of cancer at all.

The authors are also quoted in a media release as stating that:

Awareness among providers to screen for suicide risk and refer to mental health services is important for mitigating such risk and saving lives, especially within the first six months after diagnosis. Moreover, family members and caregivers must be trained to provide psychological support for their ill relatives.

and that

Both cancer and suicide are leading causes of death and present a major public health challenge. Our study highlights the fact that for some patients with cancer, their mortality will not be a direct result of the cancer itself, but rather because of the stress of dealing with it, culminating in suicide. This finding challenges us all to ensure that psychosocial support services are integrated early in cancer care.

These new data — at least for the USA — appear to challenge older data suggesting a relatively significant increase in risk for suicide among patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is possible that those older data are associated with a greater likelihood of initial diagnosis with metastatic prostate cancer.

2 Responses

  1. I don’t need to read statistics to tell me I’m at risk. I would take cancer over removing my prostate. I’m no longer a man. I’m a ******* eunoch. Sex is a basic need and I’m done for the rest of my life. Now what?


  2. I want to kill myself every day. Prostate cancer / radical prostatectomy ruined my life in every way possible.

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