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Cancer partner mental health link

Men whose partners have breast cancer are more likely to be taken to hospital with mental health problems than other men, according to a new study.

Researchers followed more than a million men and found those whose long-term partners were diagnosed with breast cancer were more than a third (39%) more likely than those whose partners did not have the disease to suffer an affective disorder so severe that they needed hospital care.

Researchers reviewed data from 1,162,596 men aged 30 or older in Denmark who had no history of hospital treatment for an affective disorder and had lived continuously with the same partner for at least five years.

Breast cancer was diagnosed in the partners of 20,538 men during 13 years of follow-up and 180 of those men suffered a mental health problem so severe that it required hospital treatment.

The study was led by Christoffer Johansen of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen who said: "A diagnosis of breast cancer not only affects the life of the patient but may also seriously affect the partner.

"We suggest that some sort of screening of the partners of cancer patients in general and of those of breast cancer patients in particular for depressive symptoms might be important for preventing this devastating consequence of cancer."

The study was published online today in CA, a journal of the American Cancer Society, but its authors said more research was needed to confirm its findings were not due to chance.

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CA: A cancer journal for clinicians