Document Type

Capstone Experience

Graduation Date


Degree Name

Master of Public Health



First Committee Member

Dr. Kendra Schmid

Second Committee Member

Dr. Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway


This population-based retrospective study used SEER-Medicare data from 2002-2010 to assess depression, comorbidity, and substance use in the elderly head and neck cancer population. Out of 3,533 head and neck cancer patients, 10.6% had depression diagnoses two years prior to cancer diagnosis, 8.9% were newly diagnosed with depression within one year after cancer diagnosis, and 44.5% of those with preexisting depression had an additional depression diagnosis within one year following cancer diagnosis. Comorbid conditions (p<0.0001) and substance use (p=0.0017) showed associations with depression prior to cancer diagnosis yet, no significant associations with incidence of depression in this head and neck cancer population. This study affirms the need for continual depression screenings in head and neck cancer patients and suggests the need for increased research into the burden of comorbid conditions and substance use within the head and neck cancer population.