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Patients with schizophrenia appear to have an increased risk of mortality from cancer, especially breast cancer in women and lung cancer in men, according to the results of a study published in Cancer.[1]

Schizophrenia is an incurable psychotic disorder that involves impaired thinking, emotions, and behavior. Schizophrenia is associated with a higher overall rate of mortality than that of the general population. Suicide is one factor in this mortality rate, but there appear to be other factors as well. Although individuals with schizophrenia do not appear to have a higher incidence of cancer, some evidence suggests that they have a higher death rate from the disease.

A study initiated in France in 1993 involved 3,470 patients with schizophrenia. The researchers calculated standardized mortality ratios (SMR), adjusted for age and gender relative to a sample of the general population. After 11 years of follow-up, 14% of patients died, which was four times the mortality rate of the general population. They found that cancer was the second most common cause of death, with a SMR of 1.5, meaning that the risk of death by cancer is 1.5-times higher than that for the general population.

For all cancers, the risk of death was higher than the general population for schizophrenic women but not for schizophrenic men. Lung cancer was the most frequent cause of cancer death in men (SMR of 2.2), and breast cancer was the most frequent cause of cancer death in women (SMR of 2.8).

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The researchers concluded that patients with schizophrenia have an increased risk of death from cancer, which suggests that healthcare providers need to stay attuned to the ongoing health needs of schizophrenic patients.


[1] Tran E, Rouillon F, Loze JY, et al. Cancer mortality in patients with schizophrenia: An 11-year prospective cohort study. Cancer. 2009; 115: 3555-2562.

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