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Partners of Breast Cancer Patients at Risk of Developing Mood Disorders

A new analysis finds that men whose partners have breast cancer are at increased risk of developing mood disorders that are so severe that they warrant hospitalization. Published in the journal Cancer, the study indicates that clinicians should address the mental health of cancer patients' loved ones.

Diseases can compromise the mental health of not only affected patients but of their closest relatives as well. Partners in particular are at risk because they may feel stressed and may be deprived of emotional, social, and economic support. A few small studies have suggested that partners of cancer patients often develop major psychosocial problems; however, data on partners' risk for severe depression is limited.

Christoffer Johansen MD, PhD, DSc (Med), of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, Denmark, led a team that analyzed how frequently male partners of women with breast cancer are hospitalized with affective disorders, which include major depression, bipolar disease, and other serious mood-altering conditions. The researchers reviewed data from 1,162,596 men who were 30 years or older, resided in Denmark, had no history of hospitalization for an affective disorder, and had lived continuously with the same partner for at least five years.

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