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In brief: Cancer screenings, AI, and cannabis use

People with severe mental illness unlikely to attend cancer screenings

New research has found that people with a severe mental illness (SMI) are significantly less likely to attend cancer screenings than those that do not have an SMI.

The study, by researchers at the University of Surrey and the Office for Health and Improvement and Disparities (OHID) at the Department of Health and Social Care, analysed data for all three national cancer screening programmes for breast, bowel, and cervical cancer.

The biggest disparity was seen in bowel cancer screening participation with 42% of those with an SMI attending compared with 59% of those without an SMI.

The SMI resulting in the largest attendance disparity was schizophrenia, followed by other psychoses and bipolar disorders.

Inequality in participation for breast cancer screening increased with age, while for bowel and cervical screening, it increased with area-level deprivation.

The data also revealed that Black adults with an SMI were less likely to attend cancer screening appointments compared to White adults with an SMI – 35% compared with 44% – which was also true for Black and White adults without an SMI –48% compared with 62%.

Lead author of the study and co-lead of the Cancer Care group at the University of Surrey, Dr Robert Kerrison, said:

“People with severe mental illness are two and a half times more likely to die prematurely from cancer than their peers.

“Their cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, which limits the treatment options available to them. Increasing early diagnosis, through screening, could help save lives from cancer and reduce inequalities in cancer outcomes.

“We now need to learn more about why participation rates are lower for these individuals, so that medical professionals can tailor support and make it easier for people with severe mental illness to attend.”

Wearable artificial intelligence devices may be able to help predict and detect depression

A large-scale review has found that wearable artificial intelligence (AI) is a promising tool for predicting and detecting depression.

The review included 54 studies out of 1314 citations retrieved from 8 electronic databases with an average of 315 participants.

The data showed that AI could correctly categorise patients with or without depression in 70%–89% of cases, with it being slightly better at classifying those without depression (73%–93%) than those with depression (61%–87%).

The study also highlights that the performance of wearable AI needs to be improved through further research, and that it should be used in combination with other methods for diagnosing and predicting depression until then.

Cannabis use disorder linked to increased risk of schizophrenia in young men

Young men with cannabis use disorder have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia, according to a new study.

The study analysed health records data from over 6 million people in Denmark spanning 5 decades to estimate the fraction of schizophrenia cases that could be attributed to cannabis use disorder on the population level.

The study found evidence associating cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia among both men and women, but the association was much stronger among young men.

15% of men aged 16–49 and 30% of men aged 21–30, compared with 4% of women aged 16–49, were able to avoid schizophrenia by stopping cannabis use.

Previous studies indicated that rates of cannabis use disorder, daily or near-daily cannabis use, and new schizophrenia diagnoses are higher among men than women, and that early, frequent cannabis use leads to an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

Dr Carsten Hjorthøj, lead author and associate professor at the Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark and at the University of Copenhagen said:

"Increases in the legalisation of cannabis over the past few decades have made it one of the most frequently used psychoactive substances in the world, while also decreasing the public's perception of its harm.

"This study adds to our growing understanding that cannabis use is not harmless, and that risks are not fixed at one point in time."

‘Uneven’ perinatal mental health support caused by workforce issues and unclear funding

A recent report by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) has highlighted the unevenness in the provision of perinatal mental health services across the UK, due in large part to insecure funding that lacks transparency and workforce planning.

The report found that, while 89% of regions across the UK saw their budgets for such services increase between 2020/21 and 2022/23, 66% of these areas predicted an underspend in 2022/23.

The most common reason for this underspend was workforce-related issues, such as vacant positions, which have been worsened by a lack of clarity and transparency around budget allocation.

This has left teams unable to plan their work effectively and support families appropriately, leading to increased sickness, stress, burnout, and staff turnover.

The report comes as the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) highlighted significant variations in the provision of specialist health visitors in perinatal and infant mental health, including differences in job descriptions, clinical case-loading expectations, training, and where the role sits within universal specialist perinatal mental health services.

Melita Graham, iHV head of mental health, commented:

“Too many families are still facing a post code lottery and not receiving the care that they need.

“Strong local leadership is important for maximising the health visitor contribution and to join the junctions between services.

“Specialist health visitors in perinatal and infant mental health are therefore a crucial element of an integrated perinatal and infant mental health care system.”

Premier League collaborates with Shout to expand its Inside Matters mental health campaign

All Premier League fixtures from 6 to 15 May will be dedicated to the "Inside Matters" campaign.

The campaign encourages conversations on mental health and offers support through a collaboration with Shout – a free, confidential, 24/7 text support service.

Fans in the UK can text "TeamTalk" to 85258 to receive support from trained volunteers supervised by an expert clinical team.

The Inside Matters Handbook, produced in collaboration with Shout, offers skills and advice for managing symptoms of anxiety and includes input from well-known players and managers.

Anti-LGBTQIA+ laws and policies impacting young people’s mental health

Results from a survey have found that almost 1 in 3 young LGBTQIA+ people’s mental health has been negatively impacted by the introduction of anti-LGBTQIA+ policies and laws.

The survey also revealed other worrying findings for young LGBTQIA+ people, with 41% considering suicide in the last 12 months, over 50% experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, and most reporting being bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity at school.

The data also showed that the younger a person is, the more at risk they are from these negative impacts.


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