Married cancer patients have better survival rates

By Laura Mize • Published: September 19th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

People facing cancer have a better chance of surviving if they are married.

Researchers who studied California Cancer Registry data collected from nearly 800,000 patients between 2000 and 2009, focusing on patients with any of the 10 most deadly forms of cancer. Among their findings: Single men with cancer were 27 percent more likely to die than married patients, whereas single women had a 19 percent higher risk. Researchers at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California published their conclusions recently in the journal Cancer.

Even when socioeconomic factors such as financial resources and access to health insurance were considered, the death rate remained greater among the unmarried: a 22 percent higher mortality risk for men and a 15 percent higher risk for women. Interestingly, the data also revealed a gender disparity: The differences in death rates between married and unmarried cancer patients were more pronounced among men.

The marital advantage also held true for all cancers — with a few variations. Prostate cancer mortality was 33 percent higher among unmarried men when compared to married men but only 12 percent higher in stomach cancer cases. Among women, the greatest difference in mortality rates between the married and the unmarried were found in breast and uterine cancer cases.

With socioeconomic factors ruled out, the researchers pointed to social support as a defining factor that might explain the difference in survival rates. They noted that previous studies have shown that spouse’s and children’s positive influences can help cancer patients engage in healthful habits. Those little effects can certainly make the fight against cancer a family affair.