The study indicates that clinicians should address the mental health of cancer patients' loved ones.
The study highlights how diseases can compromise the mental health of not only affected patients but of their closest relatives as well.
Partners in particular are at risk because they may feel stressed and may be deprived of emotional, social, and economic support.
A few small studies have suggested that partners of cancer patients often develop major psychosocial problems; however, data on partners' risk for severe depression is limited.
Dr. Christoffer Johansen, of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, Denmark, led a team that analysed how frequently male partners of women with breast cancer are hospitalised with affective disorders, which include major depression, bipolar disease, and other serious mood-altering conditions.
The researchers reviewed data from 1,162,596 men who were 30 years or older, resided in Denmark, had no history of hospitalisation for an affective disorder, and had lived continuously with the same partner for at least five years.
During 13 years of follow-up, breast cancer was diagnosed in the partners of 20,538 men.
One hundred eighty of these men were hospitalised with an affective disorder. Men whose partners were diagnosed with breast cancer were 39 percent more likely to be being hospitalised with an affective disorder compared with men whose partners did not have breast cancer.
In addition, men whose partners had severe cases of breast cancer were more likely to be hospitalised than men whose partners had less severe cases. Men whose partners experienced a relapse were also more likely to develop an affective disorder than those whose partners remained cancer-free.
Men, whose partners died after breast cancer had a 3.6-fold increased risk of developing an affective disorder compared with men whose partners survived.
"A diagnosis of breast cancer not only affects the life of the patient but may also seriously affect the partner. We suggest that some sort of screening of the partners of cancer patients in general and of those of breast cancer patients in particular for depressive symptoms might be important for preventing this devastating consequence of cancer," said Johansen.
Johansen also advocates for integrating spouses in the clinical treatment of cancer.
The study has been published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. (ANI)