Marriage May Be a Cancer Fighter, New Study Suggests

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Study suggests patients with spouses have survival advantage over single people battling disease

A wedding band may be powerful medicine against cancer, a new study suggests.

Married people seem to have a marked survival advantage, the researchers found: Single men with cancer had a death rate 27 percent higher than it was for married male patients, while the death rate for single female patients was 19 percent higher than their married counterparts.

“The effects that we find were actually quite notable,” said study author Scarlett Lin Gomez, a research scientist with the Cancer Prevention Institute of California. “They are comparable to some of the more clinical factors we often see that are associated with cancer prognosis, like stage of disease or certain types of treatment.”

What’s more, this advantage appears to rely solely on the emotional bonds of matrimony, and not the financial advantages that marriage offers, Gomez said.

“These patterns were very minimally explained by the married patients having greater economic resources,” Gomez said. “Specifically, we looked at health insurance and we looked at living in a higher socioeconomic status neighborhood. Even though these played a small role, they really didn’t explain the greater survival among the married.”

It should be noted that the study only found an association between marital status and cancer prognosis; it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

Previous studies over the past 10 to 15 years have shown a similar marriage benefit for cancer patients, Gomez said, but the benefit has always been chalked up to the love and support a person receives from their spouse.

But married people also tend to have greater combined incomes and better access to insurance, Gomez said. She and her colleagues decided to see whether money played a role in the survival advantage of married couples.

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SOURCE: WebMD News from HealthDay
Dennis Thompson