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Male Partners of Breast Cancer Patients May Suffer Depression
Date:9/27/2010

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- A large Danish study hints at the devastation suffered by men when their wives or girlfriends are sick: the male partners of women with breast cancer were almost 40 percent more likely than other men to be hospitalized for severe depression and anxiety.

The overall risk of hospitalization among the men was very small, and the new study doesn't prove that the women's cancer directly caused the men to have more psychological problems.

The findings are valuable "because they illustrate in a very dramatic way just how vulnerable husbands are to mental anguish when confronted with a seriously ill wife or in the wake of their death," said Holly G. Prigerson, director of the Center for Psycho-oncology & Palliative Care Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who was familiar with the study findings.

In the study, researchers tracked 20,538 men who lived in Denmark from 1994-2006 and had female partners -- wives or live-in girlfriends -- who developed breast cancer. The study authors, from Denmark and Japan, report their findings in the Sept. 27 online edition of the journal Cancer.

After adjusting their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by factors such as education level, the investigators found that these men were 39 percent more likely than other men to have been hospitalized for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

The risk of hospitalization was higher among those whose partners had the most advanced cases of breast cancer.

Still, the actual number of hospitalized men was low: just 180 out of 20,538.

The researchers also found that men whose partner died were 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalized than men whose female partner survived and didn't relapse. Still, the number of these cases was also small.

What's boosting the risk of psychological problems in these men?
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