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Be Well

Cancer patients more likely to file for bankruptcy

Cancer patients are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy than people without cancer, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found.

They compared nearly 200,000 adults older than 21 who lived in western Washington and were diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2009 to more than 4,000 similar adults who did not have cancer. After reviewing bankruptcy court records, the researchers found that 2 percent of those with cancer filed for bankruptcy after their diagnosis compared with 1 percent without cancer.

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The study found that cancer patients under age 65 were up to 10 times more likely to struggle financially than older patients, and the longer a person lived with the disease, the more likely he or she was to declare bankruptcy. Those diagnosed with thyroid or lung cancer had the highest bankruptcy rates.

Increased medical expenses may be one reason patients file for bankruptcy. Younger patients are also faced with a higher financial burden because they are less likely to be properly insured and are more vulnerable to debt, the authors wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Cancer patients are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy than people without cancer.

CAUTIONS: The findings do not prove a cause and effect relationship between a cancer diagnosis and bankruptcy. The study focused on one region in Washington state so the findings may not apply to a wider group of people.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Health Affairs, May 15

Higher risk of stroke for depressed women

Depressed middle-aged women have nearly double the risk of having a stroke than similar-aged women overall, Australian researchers found. The study is the first of its kind to look at the relationship between mental health and stroke risk among women in this age group.

More than 10,000 Australian women ages 47 to 52 answered survey questions about their mental and physical health every three years from 1998 to 2010. Of the 24 percent of women who reported being depressed, 2 percent had a stroke at some point during the study. Overall, 1 percent of all women in the study suffered a stroke. Even after researchers adjusted for lifestyle factors such as socioeconomic status, physical health, smoking, and alcohol use, the risk of stroke still remained higher among depressed women. The link may in part be attributable to the body’s immunological and inflammatory response to the hormones released when women are depressed, which may constrict blood vessels, the authors wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Depressed middle-aged women were more likely to have a stroke than women without depression in the same age group.

CAUTIONS: The study relied on self-reports about the participants’ physical and mental health, which may not be entirely accurate. The results may not apply to men, and to women living outside Australia.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, May 16

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