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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

SLU Research Team Discovered Variations Among Cancer Sites Resulted in Different Suicide Rates

A study of Saint Louis University published in the journal Cancer found that survivors of head and neck cancer (HNC) were almost two times more likely to die from suicide compared to other cancer sites.

There are more than 15 million cancer survivors currently in the U.S. and 440,000 of them are survivors of HNC. Cancer survivors are bothered by psychosocial problems which may enhance their risk of suicide compared to general population. Evidence showed the suicide rates of cancer survivors are greater than survivors of other chronic disease and the general population.

Their study filled the gap that variations among cancer sites resulted in different suicide rates.

Dr. Osazuwa‐Peters analyzed data from the national representative data – National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results, which contained more than eight million cancer cases and spanned four decades.

Their findings revealed that survivors of HNC have unique treatment needs, Dr. Osazuwa‐Peters pointed out “the disease has been described as the most emotionally traumatic and psychologically distressing of all cancers. There are several important sources of distress unique to HNC survivors, including persistent and late effects of treatment, such as functional and aesthetic compromise (eg, disfigurement and body image issues), swallowing difficulty, ototoxicity, and depression. Pain issues and substance abuse are also more prevalent in this population, and both have been associated with an increased risk of suicide. More attention needs to be paid to these treatment‐related, psychosocial toxicity factors that increase the risk of suicide among HNC and other cancer survivors.”

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