Breast Cancer Survival Adversely Affected by Social Isolation

Weak social ties were linked to higher risk of recurrence and early death, researchers say.
Weak social ties were linked to higher risk of recurrence and early death, researchers say.

HealthDay News -- According to a study published in Cancer, social isolation may impede long-term breast cancer survival.

Researchers looked at a woman's social connections in the 2 years after her breast cancer diagnosis to see how having friends, a spouse, relatives or community ties might affect her survival. 

Data were collected on 9267 women. Over an average follow-up of 11 years, 1448 cancers returned. Also, 1521 women died, 990 from breast cancer, the researchers found.

The team linked isolation with a higher risk of cancer recurrence compared to socially connected women (hazard ratio, 1.43). These solitary women also had an increased risk of breast cancer mortality and all-cause mortality (hazard ratios, 1.64 and 1.69, respectively). 

The links between social connections and prognosis were strongest among women with earlier-stage cancer and specific associations differed by age, race, ethnicity and country.

For example, ties to relatives and friends predicted lower breast cancer mortality for non-white women. Marriage predicted lower breast cancer mortality only among older white women. In addition, community ties predicted better outcomes in older white and Asian women.

"In a large pooled cohort, larger social networks were associated with better breast cancer-specific and overall survival," the authors write. "Clinicians should assess social network information as a marker of prognosis because critical supports may differ with sociodemographic factors."

Reference

Kroenke CH, et al. "Postdiagnosis Social Networks And Breast Cancer Mortality In The After Breast Cancer Pooling Project". Cancer. 2016. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30440. [Epub ahead of print]

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