Floortje Mols and colleagues of Tilburg University in The Netherlands and colleagues examined whether depressive symptoms observed between one and 10 years after cancer diagnosis were linked to an increased risk of premature death two to three years later.
The work focused on survivors of endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, lymphoma or multiple myeloma, where little work looking at this potential link has been done to date, Mols said.
The researchers analyzed data collected from several large population-based surveys in 2008 and 2009 and a total of 3,080 cancer survivors completed questionnaires to identify symptoms of depression.
The study, published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, found depressive symptoms increased the risk of death: clinically high levels of depressive symptoms were more common in those who died than in those who survived.
Overall, after controlling for treatment, type of cancer, co-morbidity and metastasis, 1-10 year cancer survivors with depression were twice as likely to have died early.
"Paying attention to the recognition and treatment of depressive symptoms in this patient group is key," Mols and colleagues said in a statement. "The next step is to investigate the possible mechanisms that might explain the association between depressive symptoms and death from cancer. We also need to better understand whether treatments for depressive symptoms in cancer patients have life-prolonging effects."
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