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Cancer sufferers' partners face mental health risk

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Men are more than a third more likely to develop mental health problems so serious that they require hospital treatment if their partners have breast cancer, research has suggested.

More than a million men were studied and those whose long-term partners were suffering with breast cancer had a 39% higher statistical chance of suffering an affective disorder so harsh that they would need to be treated in hospital, compared with those whose partner did not have the condition.

The men studied had to have been with the same partner for at least five years and never before received hospital treatment for an affective disorder. A total of 1,162,596 men aged at least 30 years old were analysed for the research.

Breast cancer was diagnosed in the partners of 20,538 men during 13 years of follow-up and 180 of those men suffered a mental health problem so severe that they required hospital treatment.

The study was led by Christoffer Johansen of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, who stated: “A diagnosis of breast cancer not only affects the life of the patient but may also seriously affect the partner.

“We suggest that some sort of screening of the partners of cancer patients in general and of those of breast cancer patients in particular for depressive symptoms might be important for preventing this devastating consequence of cancer.”

The study was published online in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, but its authors said that more research is needed to confirm its findings were not due to chance.


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