Depression has long been known to have a detrimental impact on physical health, but new research indicates people who suffer from the condition are no more likely to develop cancer than the general population.
The findings, to be published in The American Journal of Epidemiology
, are based on an analysis of the medical charts of more than 14,200 French people tracked between 1994 and 2009. The results indicated there was no significant association between depression and the subsequent development of five types of cancer (prostate, breast, colon, cancer associated with smoking, and cancer of the lymph glands or leukemia).
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"Ever since Hippocrates and the beginnings of medicine, the presence of 'black bile,' which gave rise to the term melancholia or melancholy, has meant that people have associated the condition with the development of malign tumors," said lead researcher Cédric Lemogne, a psychiatrist at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris. "Today, there are certain claims in circulation that depression could be a risk factor in cancer."
But he noted the findings of the new study indicate those claims are false. On the other hand, being diagnosed with cancer can cause symptoms of depression, he added.
"How many times does one hear their nearest and dearest saying 'You need to fight it, be strong to beat the cancer.' As it if were abnormal or even dangerous to feel despondent," he said. "I think that patients shouldn't worry if they feel depressed. What is important is to follow all the treatments — against cancer on the one hand and against depression on the other hand."
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