Self-Injury in Kids of Cancer Patients

Self injury and suicide rates are higher in teens who have lost a parent to cancer

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

(RxWiki News) Coping with the loss of a parent to cancer during the teen years can be too much to handle. Inflicting self-harm or thinking or attempting suicide is far too common for this group.

A recent study surveyed 952 teenagers about self-injury and suicide. The study’s findings showed teens who had lost a parent to cancer were twice as likely to self-injure than other teens.

This data raises questions about prevention techniques and early intervention to prevent serious injury or death.

"Reach out for help before hurting yourself."

Tove Bylund Grenklo, MSc, from the Departments of Oncology and Pathology and Carl Johan Fürst, MD, PhD, from the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, led the team of investigators.

For the study, 952 youth filled out a questionnaire concerning self-injury. A total of 622 of the group had lost a parent to cancer between the ages of 13-16 from 2000-2003. The other 330 participants had not lost a parent to cancer.

Of those who had lost a parent to cancer, 20 percent admitted to self-injury, compared to 11 percent of non-bereaved teens. Suicide attempts were 1.6 times higher among those in the cancer-bereaved group compared to non-bereaved teens.

Authors said, “One-fifth of cancer-bereaved youth reported self-injury, representing twice the odds for self-injury in their non-bereaved peers, regardless of any of the adjustments we made.”

Authors further recommend awareness of the vulnerable group of cancer-bereaved youth towards self-injury and suicide.

Identifying teens at risk for self-injury and providing support is necessary to help them cope with the traumatic event of losing a parent to cancer.

This study was published in December in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. No outside funding was declared for support of this research. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 4, 2012
Last Updated:
December 10, 2012