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

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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


  • colorectal surgery
  • epidemiology
  • gastrointestinal tumours


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