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February 21, 1977

Cancer and the Coroner

Author Affiliations

From the Office of the Coroner, Montgomery County, and the Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton, Ohio.

JAMA. 1977;237(8):786-788. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270350046019

There exist few reports concerning cancer presenting in forensic autopsies. This study of 1,300 consecutive forensic autopsies yielded 22 cases of single cancers (1.7%) of multiple primary sites and histologic types.

The forensic autopsy affords unique opportunity to study not only diagnosed and treated trauma, disease, and cancer, but the natural evolution of untreated cancer as well.

Clinically occult cancer is not uncommon and may eventually present clinically or at autopsy in unusual fashion. Advanced cancer may, sometimes on initial presentation, be responsible for sudden, unexpected death.

Persons with cancer, even in an advanced state, uncommonly commit suicide. Conversely, those committing suicide ostensibly because of known cancer infrequently prove to have cancer at autopsy.

Through these autopsy studies, the forensic pathologist gains information invaluable for statistical, clinical, and medicolegal purposes, truly fulfilling his role of "community pathologist."

(JAMA 237:786-788, 1977)