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Anxiety and depression 'increase risk of dying of cancer by a third'

27 January 2017 09:20

Psychological distress increases the chance of cancer death by 32%, study finds

Psychological distress increases the chance of cancer death by 32%, study finds

Adults struggling with mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression or mood disorders, are at a greater risk of dying from a tumour, a study has found.

Doctors analysed data for 163,363 men and women who were free from cancer at the start of the study, of whom 4,353 went on to die from the disease.

The research - which has been published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) - shows adults suffering from stress and anxiety increase their chances of dying from cancer by 32%. The range of cancers include bowel, prostate and pancreatic cancer.

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A large-scale study

The experts from University College London, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Sydney, analysed the data from 16 separate studies where psychological distress was measured using health questionnaires.

Those involved in the research were followed for around nine and a half years, as the researchers reviewed and assessed influencing factors that could have influenced the results. These included age, education and socio-economic situation.

Dr David Batty from UCL, the lead author, said: "After statistical control for these factors, the results show that compared with people in the least distressed group, death rates in the most distressed group were consistently higher for cancer of the bowel, prostate, pancreas, and oesophagus and for leukaemia."

Further analysis undertaken

The experts could not prove without doubt that psychological distress had a definite impact on death by cancer. The researchers also say having undiagnosed cancer could be responsible for lowering the mood of those involved.

But after conducting further analysis of a sub-group of patients, and taking into account this separate factor, evidence of a link between distress and cancer death remained.

Dr Batty added: "Our findings contribute to the evidence that poor mental health might have some predictive capacity for certain physical diseases but we are a long way off from knowing if these relationships are truly causal."