Suicide and cancer: Where do we go from here?

Ilaria Spoletini, Walter Gianni, Carlo Caltagirone, Raffaele Madaio, Lazzaro Repetto, Gianfranco Spalletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although suicide in cancer patients is a burdening public health problem with ethical, medical and psychiatric implications, it still has to be clarified why cancer patients commit suicide and how cancer suicides differ from others. Therefore, a review of the literature on suicide and suicidal ideation in cancer patients was conducted, starting from an overview of these issues in the general population. Evidence suggests that suicidality in the general population can be explained according to a genetic and psychological vulnerability to stress. The psychological and physical stressors found to be associated with suicide in cancer patients corroborate this model. Nevertheless, based on the well-described immunological disturbances due to cancer, we propose that suicide is not just a secondary reaction to cancer but is linked to an intrinsic bio-psychological vulnerability to distress. Upcoming studies should better characterize the neurobiology of suicidality in cancer, opening new avenues for treatment and prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-219
Number of pages14
JournalCritical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Immunology
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Hematology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Suicide and cancer: Where do we go from here?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this