Prostate Cancer Treatment May Increase Depression Risk


Developing depression is a side effect for some people who take a common therapy to treat prostate cancer.

Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) uses either drugs or surgery to reduce the levels of androgen hormones, such as testosterone, in the body, which feed the growth of prostate cancer cells.

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, led by Paul L. Nguyen, MD, of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, found that those on ADT were more likely to be diagnosed with depression compared to others who were on other kinds of prostate cancer treatment. They examined data on 78,552 prostate cancer patients all of whom were older than 65, and 33,382 received ADT at some point over that period.

The team found that those on ADT were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with depression compared with men on other treatments. The ADT group was also had a 26% increase risk of needing inpatient psychiatric treatment.

In addition, the researchers found that the longer the duration of deprivation therapy, the higher the risk a man had of developing depression. With 6 or less month of treatment, there was a 12% relative risk of developing depression. However, that figured increased to 26% for between seven and 11 months of treatment and 37% for a year or more.

“The possible psychiatric effects of ADT should be recognized by physicians and discussed with patients before initiating treatment,” the study concludes. However, the researchers added that the study was observational in nature, meaning it’s not clear if the ADT is what caused the depression.

Dr. Nguyen told The New York Times that with regard to hormone therapies like ADT, research is uncovering “almost an avalanche of side effects.” But he added that for some patients with advanced prostate cancer, the risk of side effects is worth it.

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block is a freelance writer and former MedShadow content editor. He has been an editor and writer for multiple pharmaceutical, health and medical publications, including BioCentury, The Pink Sheet, Modern Healthcare, Health Plan Week and Psychiatry Advisor. He holds a BA from Tufts University and is earning an MPH with a focus on health policy from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

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