Depression May Help Predict Mortality in Cancer Patients

Meta-analysis suggests need for systematic depression screening and treatment of patients
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- In cancer patients, depression is associated with a statistically significant but relatively small increased risk of death, but it is not associated with an increased risk of disease progression, according to a study published online Sept. 14 in Cancer.

Jillian R. Satin, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of prospective studies on the association between depressive symptoms or major/minor depression and the risk of mortality and disease progression.

After analyzing data from 25 independent studies, the researchers found that mortality rates were significantly higher in patients with depressive symptoms or major/minor depression (unadjusted risk ratios, 1.25 and 1.39, respectively), and that the association was not reduced by adjusting for known clinical prognostic factors. After analyzing data from three pertinent studies, they found that depressive symptoms did not significantly predict disease progression (unadjusted risk ratio, 1.23).

"Considering the existing but moderately sized evidence that depression places cancer patients at greater risk of death, it is not surprising that studies assessing the impact of psychological treatment often fail to find significant effects on cancer mortality," the authors conclude. "Nevertheless, our meta-analysis provides an empirical justification for systematic screening of psychological distress and subsequent treatments."

The authors reported funding from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

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