Journal Article

Suicides among cancer patients in Lithuania: a population-based census-linked study

Smailytė, G., Jasilionis, D., Kačėnienė, A., Krilaviciute, A., Ambrozaitiene, D., Stankūnienė, V.
Cancer Epidemiology, 37:5, 714–718 (2013)


Background: This study aims to estimate suicide risk and its socio-demographic determinants among cancer patients in the country showing the highest suicide rates among developed countries. Methods: The study is based on a unique census-linked dataset based on the linkages between the records from death and cancer registers and the 2001 population census records. Standardized mortality ratios for suicide (SMRs) were calculated for patients diagnosed with cancer in Lithuania between April 6, 2001 and December 31, 2009, relative to suicide rates in the general population. Results: We found that the relative suicide risk was elevated for both males and females, with SMRs of 1.43 (95% CI 1.23–1.66) and 1.32 (95% CI 0.95–1.80), respectively. This relationship for females became statistically significant and stronger after excluding skin cancers. The highest suicide risks were observed at older ages and during the period shortly after the diagnosis. The groups showing an increased suicide risk include lower educated, non-married, and rural male patients. Conclusion: The results of our study point to inadequacies of the health care system in dealing with mental health problems of cancer patients. Interventions allowing early detection of depression or suicidal ideation may help to prevent suicide among cancer patients in Lithuania.
Keywords: Lithuania, cancer, diagnosis, suicide
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