Adolescents and young adults are more likely to attempt or complete suicide after a cancer diagnosis, particularly in the first year after diagnosis, according to a study published in the Annals of Oncology.

Donghao Lu, from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and colleagues analyzed the risk of suicidal behavior among 7,860,629 Swedes who were at least 15 years old from 1987 to 2009, of whom 12,669 were first diagnosed with primary cancer between the ages 15 and 30 years old.

The researchers found that cancer patients were at higher risk of suicidal behavior, including both completed suicides and suicide attempts (relative risk, 1.6).

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The greatest increase in risk was in the first year after diagnosis (relative risk, 2.5), and decreased afterwards (relative risk, 1.5), with similar patterns for completed suicides and suicide attempts. The increased risk was observed for most cancer types.

“Adolescents and young adults receiving a cancer diagnosis are at substantially increased risk of suicidal behavior, particularly during the first year after diagnosis,” Lu and colleagues conclude.


  1. Lu, D., et al. “Suicide and suicide attempt after a cancer diagnosis among young individuals.” Annals of Oncology. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdt415. October 29, 2013.