Patients with schizophrenia are 50 per cent more likely to die of cancer than the general population, a French study shows.
The researchers found cancer was the second most common cause of death in patients with schizophrenia, after suicide.
The 11-year study covered 3,470 schizophrenia patients, 476 of whom died. This was an overall mortality rate four times higher than the general public.
The most common cause of death was suicide, occurring in 4.2 per cent of patients. The second most common cause was cancer, at 2.2 per cent.
In men with schizophrenia, all cancer mortality was not higher than in the general population, but lung cancer mortality was 2.2 times higher.
Factors significantly associ-ated with lung cancer mortality included being a smoker, dura-tion of smoking, smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day, age at study onset and duration of schizophrenia.
In women with schizophre-nia, all cancer mortality was 17 per cent higher, and breast can-cer mortality 2.8 times higher than in the general population.
Lead researcher Professor Frederic Limosin of the University of Reims said: 'We know that schizophrenic patients have a life expectancy that is around 20 per cent lower than the average population. In male patients there is a higher rate of smoking that could account for the increased lung cancer. But the raised breast cancer risk in females is more difficult to account for.
'It could be caused by a drug treatment used in schizophre-nia or related to these women having fewer children.
'Schizophrenia patients con-sult later, so they are diagnosed with cancer later and treated when it has reached a more advanced stage,' he added.
'There is a need for GPs to monitor this patient group care-fully and assess them for signs of cancer.'
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