A cohort study on mental disorders, stage of cancer at diagnosis and subsequent survival

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Objectives: To assess the stage at cancer diagnosis and survival after cancer diagnosis among people served by secondary mental health services, compared with other local people.

Setting: Using the anonymised linkage between a regional monopoly secondary mental health service provider in southeast London of four London boroughs, Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, and a population-based cancer register, a historical cohort study was constructed.

Participants: A total of 28 477 cancer cases aged 15+ years with stage of cancer recorded at diagnosis were identified. Among these, 2206 participants had been previously assessed or treated in secondary mental healthcare before their cancer diagnosis and 125 for severe mental illness (schizophrenia, schizoaffective or bipolar disorders).

Primary and secondary outcome measures: Stage when cancer was diagnosed and all-cause mortality after cancer diagnosis among cancer cases registered in the geographical area of southeast London.

Results: Comparisons between people with and without specific psychiatric diagnosis in the same residence area for risks of advanced stage of cancer at diagnosis and general survival after cancer diagnosed were analysed using logistic and Cox models. No associations were found between specific mental disorder diagnoses and beyond local spread of cancer at presentation. However, people with severe mental disorders, depression, dementia and substance use disorders had significantly worse survival after cancer diagnosis, independent of cancer stage at diagnosis and other potential confounders.

Conclusions: Previous findings of associations between mental disorders and cancer mortality are more likely to be accounted for by differences in survival after cancer diagnosis rather than by delayed diagnosis.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere004295
Number of pages80
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Acknowledged-BRC
  • Acknowledged-BRC-13/14


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