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Schizophrenia Linked to Higher Risk of Dying From Cancer

Study finds lung and breast cancer rates especially elevated

TUESDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer is the second leading cause of death for people with schizophrenia, a new French study reports.

Researchers from the University of Reims in France found that people with schizophrenia die from cancer at four times the rate of the general population, making it the leading cause of death in that group after suicide. The study, published online June 22 in Cancer, recommended that doctors pay closer attention to cancer prevention and early detection in people with that crippling psychiatric disorder.

Beginning in 1993, researchers at the university's Robert Debre Hospital began following more than 3,400 people with schizophrenia. In an 11-year span, 476 of them died, 74 from cancer.

Lung cancer was a leading killer among the men, perhaps reflecting the high rate of smoking in the group, the researchers noted. Among women, the risk of dying from breast cancer was significantly higher than in the general population.

The higher death rate might be due to several factors, including a delay in diagnosis and less compliance to treatment, the study suggested. The researchers said that future studies need to more closely examine cancer rates and better define the kinds of tumors that arise in people with schizophrenia, who are already prone to premature death in part because of the high suicide rate.

Schizophrenia is a chronic condition often characterized by hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking, among other disabling symptoms. Scientists do not know the exact cause of the illness, which affects more than 1 percent of people in the United States older than 18.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on schizophrenia.

-- Peter West

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, June 22, 2009

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