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Suicide Risk Up for Long-Term Survivors of Childhood Cancer

Last Updated: October 25, 2021.

MONDAY, Oct. 25, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term survivors of childhood cancer have an increased risk for suicide, with a significantly elevated risk seen for survivors alive beyond the age of 28 years, according to a study published online Oct. 25 in Cancer.

Justin M. Barnes, M.D., from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues examined whether childhood cancer survivors have an increased risk for suicide compared with the general population. First primary malignancies were identified from Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results databases among individuals aged 0 to 19 years from 1975 to 2016.

Data were included for 96,948 childhood cancer cases and 89 suicides. The researchers found that the risk for suicide for individuals with a childhood cancer history (11.64 per 100,000 person-years) was similar to the risk for those without cancer history across all attained ages (standardized mortality ratio [SMR], 1.14; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.91 to 1.43). The suicide risk was significantly elevated for survivors alive beyond the age of 28 years (median age of death by suicide; 22.43 suicides per 100,000 person-years; SMR, 1.40; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.02 to 1.87). The risk was lower for women than men (hazard ratio, 0.29; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.18 to 0.59; P < 0.01).

"Our findings raise crucial questions about what can be done to prevent suicide in vulnerable long-term adult survivors of childhood cancer," Barnes said in a statement. "Such strategies may include improving efforts to screen for distress and better employing survivorship care with a multidisciplinary team."

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