Patients' odds for cardiovascular death also go up after they get the news, study finds
TUESDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- A diagnosis of prostate cancer can be unnerving enough to up a man's odds for either suicide or fatal heart attack, new research indicates.
"Unfortunately, the study results didn't surprise us," said study co-author Dr. Lorelei A. Mucci, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "A cancer diagnosis is an acutely distressful event, and acute stress can cause a number of changes in cardiovascular risk factors. Also, if someone has an underlying health condition, the diagnosis may be enough to drive someone to suicide."
That's probably true for other cancer diagnoses, Mucci added, and her group now plans to do a similar study of breast and colon cancer patients. The group started with prostate cancer, she said, to assess whether the widespread use of screening using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test has made a difference.
As far as suicide is concerned, it seems to have done so. U.S. data on more than 340,000 American men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1979 and 2004 showed that, compared with men in the general population, men diagnosed with prostate cancer had an overall 40 percent higher risk of suicide in the year after the diagnosis was made, and a 90 percent higher incidence over the first three months post-diagnosis.
The higher risk was seen in the years before widespread PSA screening was introduced. Since 1993, when PSA screening became commonplace, the risk of suicide after a prostate cancer diagnosis has not been above the ordinary.
And while the risk of death from heart attacks and other problems was only 9 percent higher in the first year for men diagnosed with prostate cancer, it more than doubles during the first month after diagnosis. The increased risk of cardiovascular death has remained constant in the PSA-screening
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