Head and Neck Cancer Survivors Have Increased Suicide Risk

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Survivors of HNC were almost twice as likely as survivors of other cancers to die from suicide.
Survivors of HNC were almost twice as likely as survivors of other cancers to die from suicide.

(HealthDay News) -- Head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors have an increased risk for suicide compared with other cancer survivors, according to a study published online Oct. 18 in Cancer.

Nosayaba Osazuwa-Peters, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the St. Louis University Cancer Center, and colleagues queried the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results 18-registry database for the top 20 cancer sites in the database, including HNC. The mortality rate from suicide was estimated for HNC sites and compared to rates for 19 other sites.

The researchers identified 404 suicides among 151,167 HNC survivors from 2000 to 2014 -- a rate of 63.4 suicides per 100,000 person-years. Among 4,219,097 cancer survivors in the study sample, there were 4,493 suicides in this time frame, yielding an incidence rate of 23.6 suicides per 100,000 person-years. Survivors of HNC were almost twice as likely as survivors of other cancers to die from suicide (adjusted rate ratio, 1.97). Compared with the period from 2000 to 2004, during 2010 to 2014, there was a 27 percent increase in the risk for suicide among HNC survivors (adjusted rate ratio, 1.27).

"In conclusion, our study highlights suicide as an important issue for HNC survivors and cancer survivors in general," the authors write. "The need to understand this problem of cancer-associated suicide has become even more important as more patients live beyond their cancer diagnosis and treatment."

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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