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The cause of about half of all people with cancer died by suicide, a statistic which has risen dramatically in recent decades, says a new study that is helping to inform future strategies.

The study—the first of its kind ever conducted on the subject of suicide specifically among cancer patients—was led by lead author Dr. Alex Ross, a mapping security specialist who operates an integrated cancer care for mental health services in Montana.

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On average, suicide involvement among cancer patients has increased by 20% a year over the past 15 years.

“Suicide is just one of the many ways in which cancer impacts people—and is a stark environmental story,” Ross said. “It affects all those who love being alive, cancer patients included. Though we now have better therapies for almost all types of cancer, cancer remains a significant public health problem.”

This study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, used data on almost 15,000 cancer patients from Montforty, Montana, and found the combined suicide event and self-harm more often occurred within two year period of cancer diagnosis.

“The suicide rate among cancer patients in Montana is about 5.4 per 100,000 suicide deaths,” Ross explained. “The suicide link to cancer rates in general is still strong, though we need to consider that, on average, suicide groups in the United States decline in suicide risk each year.” Certain other factors likely make people more prone to suicide such as higher , poorer and older age, childhood , moderate to severe depression, and having a family history towards suicide.

In addition, acute, moderate and severe mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression and suicide, were found to be negatively associated with suicide, helping Ross and his colleagues better understand the impact of a suicide.

In terms of suicide, Ross says, “you can interpret that as suicide is seen in all forms of endocrine cancer. You have to wonder at the positive factors that make some people suicidal.”

The findings could be helpful for organizations and those in mental health services in future. This study is part of the Global Cancer Prevention and Control Initiative. The group completed both the cost and monitoring of the study.

Learn more about suicide and suicide prevention clinics in the U.S. and Canada. For tips on how to find these resources, visit or call 420 800.