Experts have suspected that depression and anxiety may increase cancer risk by affecting a person’s health-related behaviors or by having biological effects on the body that support cancer development. Some research has supported an association among depression, anxiety, and cancer incidence, whereas other investigations have found no or negligible associations. In a meta-analysis, investigators found that depression and anxiety are not linked to higher risks for most types of cancer. These findings were published by van Tuijl et al in the journal Cancer.
Lonneke A. van Tuijl, PhD, of the University Medical Center Groningen, and her colleagues examined data from the international Psychosocial Factors and Cancer Incidence consortium, which includes information from 18 prospective study groups with more than 300,000 adults from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Canada. The team found no associations between depression or anxiety and incidence of overall, breast, prostate, colorectal, and alcohol-related cancers during a follow-up of up to 26 years.
The presence of depression or anxiety was linked with a 6% higher risk of developing lung cancer and smoking-related cancers, but this risk was substantially reduced after adjusting for other cancer-related risk factors, including smoking, alcohol use, and body mass index. Therefore, this analysis supports the importance of addressing tobacco use and other unhealthy behaviors, including those that may develop as a result of anxiety or depression.
“Our results may come as a relief to many patients with cancer who believe their diagnosis is attributed to previous anxiety or depression,” said Dr. van Tuijl. “However, further research is needed to understand exactly how depression, anxiety, health behaviors, and lung cancer are related.”
Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com.The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.