Women With Schizophrenia are at Higher Risk for Breast Cancer

By Mia Garchitorena

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A new study found that the incidence of breast cancer among women with schizophrenia is higher than those found in the general population.

The risk of cancer in patients with schizophrenia remains unknown, but they commonly have many risk factors that play a part in the development of cancer, such as smoking, substance abuse, obesity, and lack of exercise.

Psychiatric researchers from Tianjin Medical University in China and The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore analyzed female patients with schizophrenia to see if they had additional risk factors when it came to breast cancer. They also wanted to determine if the incidence of breast cancer was higher than in the general population. The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Schizophrenia. (Source: Creative Commons)

The researchers performed analyzed 12 cohort studies that reported the incidence for the risk of cancer in women with schizophrenia between 1992 and 2016 compared with general populations using PubMed and EMBASE databases, according to the study. They then performed a meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology and the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.

A total of 125,760 women with diagnosed schizophrenia over 18 years old were included in the study. The researchers found that schizophrenia was associated with a higher incidence risk of breast cancer in women (SIR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.12-1.50; P<0.001) with “significant heterogeneity” (P<0.001; I2 = 84%). According to the study, the “existence of substantial between-study variance is reflected by the wide prediction interval”.

“It is possible that a future study will show a decreased breast cancer risk in women with schizophrenia compared with the general population,” the authors wrote.

Because breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, the researchers advised clinicians to perform intensive prevention and treatment against breast cancer in women with schizophrenia.

“Our results highlight that women with schizophrenia deserve focused care for breast cancer screening and treatment,” they wrote.