Predictors of an early death in patients diagnosed with colon cancer: A retrospective case-control study in the UK

Conan Donnelly*, Nigel Hart, Alan David McCrorie, Michael Donnelly, Lesley Anderson, Lisa Ranaghan, Anna Gavin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective Despite considerable improvements, 5-year survival rates for colon cancer in the UK remain poor when compared with other socioeconomically similar countries. Variation in 5-year survival can be partly explained by higher rates of death within 3 months of diagnosis in the UK. This study investigated the characteristics of patients who died within 3 months of a diagnosis of colon cancer with the aim of identifying specific patient factors that can be addressed or accounted for to improve survival outcomes. Design A retrospective case-control study design was applied with matching on age, sex and year diagnosed. Patient, disease, clinical and service characteristics of patients diagnosed with colon cancer in a UK region (2005-2010) who survived less than 3 months from diagnosis (cases) were compared with patients who survived between 6 and 36 months (controls). Patient and clinical data were sourced from general practice notes and hospital databases 1-3 years prediagnosis. Results Being older (aged ≥78 years) and living in deprivation quintile 5 (OR=2.64, 95% CI 1.15 to 6.06), being unmarried and living alone (OR=1.64, 95% CI 1.07 to 2.50), being underweight compared with normal weight or obese (OR=3.99, 95% CI 1.14 to 14.0), and being older and living in a rural as opposed to urban area (OR=1.96, 95% CI 1.21 to 3.17) were all independent predictors of early death from colon cancer. Missing information was also associated with early death, including unknown stage, histological type and marital/accommodation status after accounting for other factors. Conclusion Several factors typically associated with social isolation were a recurring theme in patients who died early from colon cancer. This association is unexplained by clinical or diagnostic pathway characteristics. Socially isolated patients are a key target group to improve outcomes of the worst surviving patients, but further investigation is required to determine if being isolated itself is actually a cause of early death from colon cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere026057
Number of pages12
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number6
Early online date19 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements The authors gratefully appreciate the contribution of data
abstractors: Donna Floyd, Rosemary Ward, Jacqui Napier, Kate Donnelly and Bríd
Morris. The authors also thank Business Services Organisation, Health and Social
Care NI for facilitating the note review. Finally, the authors would like to thank all
patients whose data was used in this study


  • colorectal surgery
  • epidemiology
  • gastrointestinal tumours


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