Purpose: To evaluate risk of suicide ideation (SI) after childhood cancer, prevalence of SI in a cohort of adult survivors of pediatric cancers was compared with prevalence in a sibling comparison group. The relationship of SI to cancer treatment and current health was examined, and the hypothesis that poor physical health is significantly associated with suicidality, after adjusting for depression, was specifically tested.
Methods: Nine thousand one hundred twenty-six adult survivors of childhood cancer and 2,968 siblings enrolled onto the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study completed a survey describing their demographics and medical and psychological functioning, including SI in the prior week.
Results: Of survivors, 7.8% reported SI compared with 4.6% of controls (odds ratio = 1.79; 95% CI, 1.4 to 2.4). Suicidality was unrelated to age, age at diagnosis, sex, cancer therapy, recurrence, time since diagnosis, or second malignancy. SI was associated with primary CNS cancer diagnosis, depression, and poor health outcomes including chronic conditions, pain, and poor global health rating. A logistic regression analysis showed that poor current physical health was significantly associated with SI even after adjusting for cancer diagnosis and depression.
Conclusion: Adult survivors of childhood cancers are at increased risk for SI. Risk of SI is related to cancer diagnosis and post-treatment mental and physical health, even many years after completion of therapy. The association of suicidal symptoms with physical health problems is important because these may be treatable conditions for which survivors seek follow-up care and underscores the need for a multidisciplinary approach to survivor care.