Psychosocial Factors Predict Depression in Breast Cancer

Article excerpt

SAN DIEGO -- Psychosocial variables were the strongest predictors of depression in a study of breast cancer survivors, Dr. Wayne A. Bardwell reported at the annual meeting of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine.

"What this says to us is that measures of the more general way that these women view their world seem to be much more important [with respect to depressive symptoms] than cancer-related variables, health-related behaviors, or demographics," Dr. Bardwell said.

In their study, Dr. Bardwell, of the University of California, San Diego, and his associates analyzed data from 2,617 women recruited for the Women's Healthy Eating and Living study, a randomized, controlled 8-year longitudinal trial of the effects of dietary interventions on cancer recurrence in breast cancer survivors. This analysis was performed before the study began.

The subjects were 0-4 years postdiagnosis and had had stage I, II, or IIIA breast cancer. More than half were currently using tamoxifen.

Their depressive symptoms were measured with the eight-item short form of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies--Depression (CES-D) scale.

Rather than view depression as a dichotomous variable, in which a subject is classified simply as "depressed" or "not depressed," the investigators treated depressive symptoms as a continuous variable, on the assumption that even subclinical levels of depression could affect a patient's quality of life.

Individual cancer-related variables such as years since diagnosis, demographic factors, health-related behaviors, physical symptoms, and psychosocial variables were assessed for their correlation with depressive symptoms. …