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Being married ‘improves cancer survival’

Cancers tend to be diagnosed earlier among married patients

People who are married when they are diagnosed with cancer live longer than those who are not, researchers have claimed.

The study, from Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, found married patients also tended to have cancers diagnosed at an earlier stage and to receive more appropriate treatment.

“Our data suggests that marriage can have a significant health impact for patients with cancer, and this was consistent among every cancer that we reviewed,” said Ayal Aizer, chief resident of the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program and the paper’s first author.

Aizer told the Harvard Gazette that support from spouses is driving the improvement in survival, as spouses often accompany patients on their visits and make sure they understand the recommendations and complete all their treatments.

The researchers conducted an analysis of 734,889 people who were diagnosed with cancer between 2004 and 2008 in the US.

Their analysis found that in comparison with married patients, unmarried cancer patients, including those who were widowed, were 17% more likely to have metastatic cancer (cancer that spread beyond its original site) and were 53% less likely to receive the appropriate therapy.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.