Association of mental health diagnosis with race and all-cause mortality after a cancer diagnosis: Large-scale analysis of electronic health record data

Cancer. 2022 Jan 15;128(2):344-352. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33903. Epub 2021 Sep 22.


Background: Disparity in mental health care among cancer patients remains understudied.

Methods: A large, retrospective, single tertiary-care institution cohort study was conducted based on deidentified electronic health record data of 54,852 adult cancer patients without prior mental health diagnosis (MHD) diagnosed at the University of California, San Francisco between January 2012 and September 2019. The exposure of interest was early-onset MHD with or without psychotropic medication (PM) within 12 months of cancer diagnosis and primary outcome was all-cause mortality.

Results: There were 8.2% of patients who received a new MHD at a median of 197 days (interquartile range, 61-553) after incident cancer diagnosis; 31.0% received a PM prescription; and 3.7% a mental health-related visit (MHRV). There were 62.6% of patients who were non-Hispanic White (NHW), 10.8% were Asian, 9.8% were Hispanic, and 3.8% were Black. Compared with NHWs, minority cancer patients had reduced adjusted odds of MHDs, PM prescriptions, and MHRVs, particularly for generalized anxiety (Asian odds ratio [OR], 0.66, 95% CI, 0.55-0.78; Black OR, 0.60, 95% CI, 0.45-0.79; Hispanic OR, 0.72, 95% CI, 0.61-0.85) and selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (Asian OR, 0.43, 95% CI, 0.37-0.50; Black OR, 0.51, 95% CI, 0.40-0.61; Hispanic OR, 0.79, 95% CI, 0.70-0.89). New early MHD with PM was associated with elevated all-cause mortality (12-24 months: hazard ratio [HR], 1.43, 95% CI, 1.25-1.64) that waned by 24 to 36 months (HR, 1.18, 95% CI, 0.95-1.45).

Conclusions: New mental health diagnosis with PM was a marker of early mortality among cancer patients. Minority cancer patients were less likely to receive documentation of MHDs or treatment, which may represent missed opportunities to identify and treat cancer-related mental health conditions.

Keywords: distress; electronic health record; mental health; psychooncology; psychotropic medication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies