Cancer patients are no more likely to attempt suicide than people without - but they're far more likely to succeed, new research suggests.
The in-progress research was presented at this year's European Congress of Psychiatry in Florence, Italy, on Monday (NZ time).
Scientists from the University of Montpelier and Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan are combing through previous studies, looking for links between cancer and suicide.
What they've found so far suggests cancer patients are between 53 and 55 percent more likely to die by suicide than those without the disease.
But they've found no increased risk of cancer patients having suicidal thoughts or attempting to end their own lives.
"The assessment of suicide risk in patients with cancer is crucial," says author Dr Raffaella Calati.
"We suggest there is a need in cancer patients to screen and care not only for anxiety and depression, but also specifically for those people with suicidal thoughts and a lifetime history of suicide attempts, in particular during the period immediately subsequent to the diagnosis of cancer."
- If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0508 828 865.
The researchers are yet to publish their findings. They want to expand the number and breadth of studies in their research, control for variables that may be skewing the numbers and dig deeper into subgroups of populations.
They expect the final results to show a clear correlation between cancer and suicide.