Marriage May Help You Fight Cancer

By Richard Asa  @RickAsa
July 29, 2016

Married people have a 20 percent better chance of surviving cancer compared to those who were single. 

You get married for a lot of reasons, little did you know that marriage may fight cancer. 


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Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, looked at samples from 60,000 people diagnosed with blood cancers and found the married ones had a 20 percent better chance of surviving compared to those who were single.

The findings could be the result of the people having a support system, study co-author Matthew Wieduwilt, MD, PhD told Tech Times. Single patients tend to be sicker or at the later stages of their illnesses. They are less likely to have someone at home who would push them to seek medical care, the Tech Times said. 

Men with cancer in particular seemed to benefit from marriage. Unmarried men were 27 percent more likely to die of their tumors, and single women were 19 percent more likely to die, the study found. 

Married people generally had better health insurance and lived in better neighborhoods, but single patients still fared  worse even after accounting for these financial reasons as an advantage of marriage, said Reuters

"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."

The research team was not promoting marriage as a way to improve your cancer prognosis, Gomez said. Single people can help themselves as well with strong social networks, and relying on friends and family members for help.

Rather, the study suggests how much value a caregiver can add to improving survival in cancer patients, said Gregory Masters, MD, an oncologist with the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center in Newark, Del.

"Social support provided by devoted caregivers such as a spouse may be a major component of the improved survival for these patients," Masters said. "It suggests that a concerted effort to evaluate a patient's psychosocial resources may be as important as other factors in helping to improve cancer survival."

The benefit for some ethnic groups was much less pronounced. Asian and Pacific Island single women, Newsweek noted for example, had just a 6 percent higher cancer death rate than those who were married.

“Given the rising proportion of unmarried individuals in the United States and the variation by race/ethnicity, the contribution of marital status to the overall burden of cancer mortality will likely continue to rise,” the researchers wrote. “Future research should focus on identifying the factors underlying these associations to inform targeted interventions for unmarried cancer patients.”

The U.S. Census says more than twice as many adults over 18 were married about 40 years ago. 


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March 30, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA