Researchers recently conducted a retrospective, population-based study to examine and expand understanding about the prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD), associated therapies, and suicidal ideation among cancer survivors compared with individuals without cancer. The results were published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics.

The authors wrote, “Receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing subsequent treatments can result in a significant psychological burden for cancer patients. However, there is conflicting literature on the incidence of major depression in cancer patients compared to patients without cancer.”

The researchers gathered survey responses from January 2015 to December 2019 from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. All respondents for the study were aged 18 years or older and also provided a cancer history. The study included 212,411 survey respondents, of which 7,635 (3.6%) reported a cancer history, with 1,486 (0.7%) reporting a recent cancer history.

Patients with a reported history of cancer (“cancer survivors”) were then categorized by whether a “recent” cancer diagnosis within the past 12 months was stated. The researchers assessed survey responses for recent diagnoses and treatments for MDD and suicidal ideation. The researchers then compared the rates between cancer survivors versus individuals without cancer utilizing the Pearson χ2 test and multivariable logistic regression models, respectively.

The results revealed that the occurrence of MDD was not different between cancer survivors and participants without cancer (9.3% vs. 9.2%; P = .762), though the incidence was slightly greater among recent cancer survivors (10.0% vs. 9.2%; P = .259). Among patients diagnosed with MDD, cancer survivors were significantly more likely to receive treatment for depression (78.6% vs. 60.3%, P <.001), with 72.6% discussing depressive symptoms with a medical professional and 64.3% obtaining prescription medication.

The incidence of suicidal ideation was notably lower among cancer survivors (5.1% vs. 6.2%, P <.001), including recent survivors (5.0% vs. 6.2%, P <.001). Suicidal ideation was more significant in patients with underlying MDD in both cancer survivors and participants without cancer (30.6% vs. 35.6%, P = .015). On logistic regression, respondents with underlying depression receiving treatment were more prone to have suicidal ideation (odds ratio [OR]: 1.49; P <.001), while having a cancer diagnosis was not associated with an augmented risk of suicidal ideation (OR: 0.87; P = .869).

Based on their findings, the authors concluded there was no meaningful overall variation in the occurrences of MDD between cancer survivors and patients without cancer. They wrote, “However, one consideration is the under-diagnosis of depression among cancer survivors. Symptoms of depression may be overlooked and mistakenly attributed to appropriate grief from a cancer diagnosis. Among patients diagnosed with major depression, cancer survivors were more likely to receive treatment for depression.”

Finally, the authors noted that their results emphasize the magnitude of early evaluation of depression and early intervention for cancer survivors.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.