The effects of major depression and phobia on stage at diagnosis of breast cancer

Int J Psychiatry Med. 1999;29(1):29-45. doi: 10.2190/0C63-U15V-5NUR-TVXE.


Objective: To examine the longitudinal effects of major depression and phobia on stage at diagnosis of subsequent breast cancer.

Method: Data from the New Haven Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) study were linked to the Connecticut Tumor Registry (CTR). The sample comprised of seventy-two women with a first primary breast cancer diagnosed sometime after their baseline ECA study interview. In the ECA study, lifetime psychiatric history was assessed using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule based on DSM-III criteria. Stage at diagnosis of breast cancer was taken from CTR records and dichotomized into early stage (in situ and localized tumors) versus late stage (regional and distant tumors).

Results: A positive history of major depression was associated with an increased likelihood of late-stage diagnosis of breast cancer (odds ratio [OR] = 9.81, p = 0.039), whereas a positive history of phobic disorders was associated with a decreased likelihood of late-stage diagnosis (OR = 0.01, p = 0.021), controlling for sociodemographic characteristics of the sample.

Conclusions: These analyses revealed a longitudinal association between reported lifetime psychiatric history and stage at diagnosis of subsequent breast cancer. Phobia may motivate women to adhere to breast cancer screening recommendations and to report suspicious symptoms to a physician without delay. Major depression, on the other hand, was identified as an important predictor of late-stage diagnosis; proper recognition and management of depression in the primary care setting may have important implications for breast cancer detection and survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / etiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Severity of Illness Index