Cancer patients who are married are more likely to survive than those who are unmarried, according to a U.S. study published Monday that offered another reason for finding a spouse and being married.
Researchers from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and the University of California, San Diego, looked at nearly 800,000 adults in California who were diagnosed in 2000 to 2009 with invasive cancer and were followed through 2012.
Their results, published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, showed that unmarried cancer patients had higher death rates than married patients.
For males, the rate of death was 27 per cent higher among those who were unmarried compared with those who were married. For females, the rate was 19 per cent higher among unmarried patients.
These patterns were minimally explained by greater economic resources among married patients, such as having private health insurance and living in higher socio-economic status neighbourhoods.
‘‘While other studies have found similar protective effects associated with being married, ours is the first in a large population-based setting to assess the extent to which economic resources explain these protective effects,” said author Scarlett Lin Gomez of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California. ‘‘Our study provides evidence for social support as a key driver.”
The findings indicated that doctors who treat unmarried cancer patients should ask if there is someone within their social network available to help them physically and emotionally. The beneficial effect of being married on survival differed across racial and ethnic groups.
Asian and Pacific Islander cancer patients who were born in the United States experienced a greater benefit than those born outside the country.” The results suggest that the more acculturated you become to U.S. culture, the more it impacts cancer survivorship,” said study author Maria Elena Martinez, of the University of California, San Diego. ‘‘Our hypothesis is that non-Hispanic whites don’t have the same social network as other cultures that have stronger bonds with family and friends outside of marriage. As individuals acculturate they tend to lose those bonds.”