Mental Illness Linked to Cancer Risk

Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were linked to higher rates of cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can be associated with various health problems. New research suggests that cancer risk is higher for people with these disorders.

A recent study found that adults with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were more than twice as likely to develop some type of cancer. Doctors and patients can work together to reduce risk of some cancers.

"Talk to your psychiatrist about lowering your cancer risk."

Emma McGinty, MS, along with Gail Daumit, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, looked at the records of 3,317 adults in Maryland with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

They calculated the rates of cancer in patients from looking at ten years of patient records, from 1994 to 2004, and compared it to published cancer rates for the general population in the US.

People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were 2.6 times more likely to have some type of cancer than the general population.

When looking at specific types of cancer, patients with schizophrenia or bipolar were at greatest risk for lung cancer.

The authors noted that the higher rates of lung cancer could be accounted for by the higher rates of smoking in people with serious mental illness.

In their recent abstract, the authors said, “Clinicians should promote appropriate cancer screening and work to reduce modifiable risk factors, such as smoking, among persons with serious mental illness.”

Patients can work with their doctors to understand the risk factors for cancer, get proper screening and reduce risk of some cancers.

This study was localized to people in Maryland, so it is unclear if regional differences in cancer risk might exist. Larger scale studies in other regions are needed.

This study was published July 1 in Psychiatric Services. Authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 26, 2012
Last Updated:
March 7, 2013