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The Risk of Death

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In the New England Journal of Medicine this week, researchers in the US, Iceland, and Sweden reported a study on the rates of suicide and cardiovascular events that can sometimes follow a diagnosis of cancer. "Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a traumatic experience that may trigger immediate adverse health consequences beyond the effects of the disease or treatment," the team writes. Using regression models, the researchers constructed a historical cohort of 6,073,240 Swedes who had received a diagnosis of cancer between 1991 and 2006. "As compared with cancer-free persons, the relative risk of suicide among patients receiving a cancer diagnosis was 12.6 during the first week and 3.1 during the first year," the researchers found. "The relative risk of cardiovascular death after diagnosis was 5.6 during the first week and 3.3 during the first four weeks." The risk of suicide and cardiovascular events decreased rapidly during the first year, after diagnosis, they add, but the risk for both was particularly high for cancers with a poor prognosis.