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Childhood cancer survivors at increased risk of suicidal thoughts

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Adult survivors of childhood cancer have an increased risk for suicidal thoughts, even decades after their cancer treatment has ended, latest research suggests.

Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, studied 9,126 adult paediatric cancer survivors, aged 18 or over, and a non-cancer control group of almost 3,000 of the survivors’ siblings. 

They found that 7.8 per cent of the survivors reported having suicidal thoughts, compared to just 4.5 per cent of the control group.

Survivors of brain and central nervous system cancers were the most likely to experience suicidal thoughts – 10.6 per cent – while survivors of non-Hodgkin lymphoma were the least likely at 6.7 per cent, the researchers said.

The study also found that those who were in poor health, or who had cancer related pain or treatment-related chronic conditions, were at greater risk for suicidal thoughts.

Lead study author Christopher Recklitis, assistant professor of paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston, said: “Although the vast majority of survivors reported no suicidal ideation, the significant minority of survivors with thoughts of suicide is a serious concern.

“Our findings underscore the importance of recognising the connection between childhood cancer survivors’ physical health issues and their risk for suicidal thoughts, as some of the conditions may be treatable,” he added.

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