Incidence of Opioid-Associated Deaths in Cancer Survivors in the United States, 2006-2016: A Population Study of the Opioid Epidemic | Oncology | JAMA Oncology | JAMA Network
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    Research Letter
    May 7, 2020

    Incidence of Opioid-Associated Deaths in Cancer Survivors in the United States, 2006-2016: A Population Study of the Opioid Epidemic

    Author Affiliations
    • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, New York
    • 2Duke Palliative Care, Division of Medical Oncology, Duke Cancer Institute, Durham, North Carolina
    • 3Department of Radiation Oncology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
    JAMA Oncol. 2020;6(7):1100-1102. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.0799

    More than 40 000 people in the US died owing to opioids in 2016; the epidemic tops public health concerns. Opioids are commonly used for cancer-associated pain, and there has been a call for oncologists to become more aware of opioid-related risks and benefits.1 It is unknown, however, if opioid-related deaths in cancer survivors are rising at the same rate as in the general population.

    Death certificate data were obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Death certificates contain 1 underlying cause of death, up to 20 contributing causes, and demographic data. All deaths owing to opioids were included from 2006 through 2016; if present, cancer was noted as a contributing cause. Opioid-related death incidence was calculated from the US population and estimated cancer survivor population,2 both via NCHS data. To assess for differences, χ2 and R2 tests were used. Statistical significance was defined as α < .05 on a 2-sided significance level. All statistical analyses were performed with SPSS, version 21 (IBM). The Duke University Medical Center Institutional Review Board provided a waiver (Pro00045337) for this study, given that it is publicly available deidentified data. Informed consent is waived for publicly available, deidentified databases. Data were collected from May through August 2018, and analysis was completed in September 2019.