• colon cancer;
  • mental health;
  • access to care

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the extent to which preexisting mental disorders influence diagnosis, treatment, and survival in older adults with colon cancer.

DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

SETTING: The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)–Medicare linked database.

PARTICIPANTS: Eighty thousand six hundred seventy participants, aged 67 and older with a diagnosis of colon cancer.

MEASUREMENTS: The association between the presence of a preexisting mental disorder and the stage of colon cancer at diagnosis, receipt of cancer treatment, and overall and colon cancer-specific mortality were assessed using Cox proportional hazards regression and logistic regression.

RESULTS: Participants with mental disorders were more likely to have been diagnosed with colon cancer at autopsy (4.4% vs 1.1%; P<.001) and at an unknown stage of cancer (14.6% vs 6.2%; P<.001); to have received no surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy (adjusted risk ratio (ARR)=2.09, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.86–2.35); and to have received no chemotherapy for Stage 3 cancer (ARR=1.63, 95% CI=1.49–1.79). The rate of overall mortality (hazard ratio (HR)=1.33, 95% CI=1.31–1.36) and colon cancer-specific mortality (HR=1.23, 95% CI=1.19–1.27) was substantially higher in participants with a preexisting mental disorder than in their counterparts. All of these associations were particularly pronounced in participants with psychotic disorders and those with dementia.

CONCLUSION: Public health initiatives are needed to improve colon cancer detection and treatment in older adults with mental disorders.