HEALTH BENEFITS OF BEING MARRIED FOR CANCER PATIENT
married people with cancer were 17 percent less likely have metastatic
cancer (cancer that has spread beyond the original site) a finding that
suggests their cancer is being caught at an earlier stage and they were more likely to receive appropriate treatment for the disease.
It could be that the reason married people live longer is because they
have more social support they have someone to share the burden of
their diagnosis, which may reduce depression and anxiety as well as
someone to take them to their appointments and ensure they adhere to
their treatments, the researchers said.
The findings are not an affirmation of the health benefits of
marriage, but instead, suggest that providing increased social support
to unmarried people with cancer could benefit their health, the
"If you have a friend or a loved one or
someone you care about with cancer, you can potentially make a big
difference in their outcome by going with them to their doctors visit,
and helping them understand their diagnosis,"
on whether social support improves outcomes for patients with cancer has
been mixed. More studies are needed to understand what kinds of social
support interventions such as group versus individual counseling are
the most helpful.
Benefits of marriage
The researchers analyzed information from more than 734,800 people in
the United States who were diagnosed with cancer between 2004 and 2008.
The study participants had one of 10 cancers: lung, colorectal, breast,
pancreatic, prostate, liver/bile duct, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, head and
neck, ovarian and esophageal cancer.
After taking into account factors that could affect patient survival,
such as age, household income and cancer stage, the researchers found
that people who were married were between 12 and 33 percent less likely
to die from cancer than those who were not married. The biggest survival
benefit was seen for head and neck cancers, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Interestingly, the benefit of marriage on cancer outcomes was greater
for men than women. More research is needed to understand the reasons
for this finding, but it could be that unmarried women receive greater
social support from friends, relatives and the community than unmarried
men, the researchers said. A 2011 study from Norway found that unmarried men with cancer were more likely to die than married men with cancer, and that the disparity between the two groups had increased over the years.
Comparable to chemotherapy?
For about half the cancers studied (prostate, breast, colorectal,
esophageal, and head/neck cancers), the survival benefit linked with
marriage was greater than that linked with chemotherapy in previous
studies, a result that surprised even the researchers.
one would argue that chemotherapy is an important treatment that should
be given when needed, the new findings suggest the strength of the
potential benefits of social support,
social support therapies would come with a cost, "it could actually be
that we end up saving money in the long run," because the
cancer is caught earlier, in stages where it is more likely to be
"There's a connection [between marriage and cancer
survival], but the connection is not necessarily marriage itself, it's
all the things that go with marriage, Unmarried people may
be more likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, which could
contribute to their increased risk of mortality.
are needed that follow people forward in time (instead of looking back,
as the current study did) to understand why marriage is linked with
better cancer outcomes.