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Depression after cancer diagnosis more likely in South Asians

South Asians are five times more likely than British white people to be severely depressed following cancer diagnosis. 

The study published in BMJ Open showed people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Sri Lankan origin appeared to suffer more pain, leading researchers to conclude this could be a way of drawing attention to psychological distress. 

British South Asians (BSA) also had twice the self-reported rate of depressive symptoms than British white participants. 

Lead author Professor Paul Symonds from the University of Leicester pointed out that the findings are technically only relevant to patients from Leicestershire. 

However, he added: “We think it is highly likely that there is a higher incidence of depression among BSA cancer patients elsewhere in the United Kingdom and our findings have important implications for the NHS.

“Health professionals need to be aware of a greater probability of depressive symptomatology and how this may present clinically in the first nine months after diagnosis if this ethnic disparity in mental well-being is to be addressed.”

Not 'clear cut'

Earlier this week researchers from the University of Sheffield revealed British South Asian (BSA) women should no longer be considered 'low risk' for breast cancer. 

Previous studies have found that breast cancer incidence is lower in the BSA population. 

Between 2000-2004, BSA women had a 45% lower rate of breast cancer compared to white women, as found in previous studies. 

Yet, between 2005-2009 rates of breast cancer among BSA women increased significantly, settling at 8% higher than white women. 

South Asian women aged over 65 years old now have a 37% higher risk of breast cancer than white women. 

Study author Matthew Day, Public Health lecturer at the University of Sheffield, said: “The exact causes behind this change are not clear cut, they could relate to increases in screening uptake among these groups of women, which have in the past been shown to be lower than in other groups. 

“Or they could be due to changes in lifestyle factors, like having fewer children and having them later in life, increased use of oral contraceptives, and increased smoking and alcohol intake - factors linked to increased breast cancer risk across the board.”