Studies indicate that the incidence of suicide in cancer patients can be equal to the incidence in the general population or up to 2 to 10 times as frequent. Some studies suggest that while relatively few cancer patients commit suicide, they are at increased risk for suicide.[1,2,3] One population-based study utilizing data from the Cancer Registry of Norway linked to the Register of Deaths at Statistics Norway indicated an increased relative risk of suicide in the decade 1990-1999 within 2 years of diagnosis for males and females; however, the relative risk for females was nonsignificant. For both sexes, the risk was highest in the first months after diagnosis, and there was a significant decrease in relative risk over decades. Passive suicidal thoughts are relatively common among cancer patients. The relationships between suicidal tendency and the desire for hastened death, requests for physician-assisted suicide, and/or euthanasia are complex and poorly understood. Men with cancer are clearly at an increased risk of suicide compared with the general population, with a relative risk as high as 2.3.[1,2] Overdosing with analgesics and sedatives is the most common method of suicide among persons with cancer,[1,2] with most cancer-related suicides occurring at home. Reports identify a higher incidence of suicide in patients with oral, pharyngeal, and lung cancers and in HIV-positive patients with Kaposi sarcoma.[1,2,5] The actual incidence of suicide in cancer patients is probably underestimated. There may be reluctance to report death by suicide in these circumstances.
Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about religious and spiritual coping in cancer care. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.
Reviewers and Updates
This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Supportive...