How is cancer related to schizophrenia?

Cancer is a broad group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth, where cells divide and grow forming malignant tumours. Cancer may spread through the lymphatic system or blood stream. Lifestyle, genetic factors and environmental pollutants increase a persons’ risk of developing cancer. People with schizophrenia show increased exposure to risk factors associated with cancer, such as smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet, obesity, substance abuse, diabetes and hepatitis.

What is the evidence for comorbid cancer?

Moderate to high quality evidence finds a small increase in the rate of breast cancer in females with schizophrenia compared to general population rates. Lung cancer may also be increased in females with schizophrenia.

There were small to medium-sized decreases in rates of prostate and colorectal cancers in males with schizophrenia, and a small decrease in malignant melanoma in both males and females with schizophrenia. Decreased incidence of liver cancer was found prior to a diagnosis of schizophrenia in both males and females, and increased incidence of liver cancer was found after a diagnosis of schizophrenia in males only.

There were no differences in rates of brain or stomach cancers.

High quality evidence also finds a small decreased incidence of any cancer in parents and siblings of people with schizophrenia.

Cancer-related mortality in people with schizophrenia was increased by about 40% compared to general population rates.

June 2020

Last updated at: 3:11 am, 18th June 2020
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