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Life-Extending Role of Strong Social Relationships

Posted Feb 07 2011 8:48pm
Posted on 2011-02-07 06:00:00 in Cancer | Lifestyle | Women's Health |
Life-Extending Role of Strong Social Relationships

Previously, studies have suggested that breast cancer patients benefit from engaging in a meaningful emotional support network.  Researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (Tennessee, USA) and the Shanghai Institute of Preventive Medicine (China) analyzed data on women enrolled in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survivor Study. From 2002 to 2004, a total of 2,230 breast cancer survivors completed a quality of life survey six months after diagnosis and a majority responded to a follow-up survey 36 months after diagnosis. The women were asked about physical issues like sleep, eating and pain, psychological well-being, social support and material well-being. The answers were converted to an overall quality of life score.  During a median follow-up of 4.8 years after the initial quality of life assessment, the researchers documented participants who had died or been diagnosed with a cancer recurrence. Six months after diagnosis, the team found that only greater social well-being was significantly associated with a decreased risk of dying or having a cancer recurrence. Compared to women with the lowest scores, women who scored highest on the social well-being quality of life scale had a 48% reduction in their risk of a cancer recurrence and a 38% reduction in the risk of death.  Finding that emotional support was the strongest predictor of cancer recurrence, women reporting the highest satisfaction with marriage and family had a 43% risk reduction, while those with strong social support had a 40% risk reduction and those with favorable interpersonal relationships had a 35% risk reduction.  Observing that:  “Social well-being in the first year after cancer diagnosis is a significant prognostic factor for breast cancer recurrence or mortality, the team submits that their data “[suggests] a possible avenue of intervention by maintaining or enhancing social support for women soon after their breast cancer diagnosis to improve disease outcomes.”

Meira Epplein, Ying Zheng, Wei Zheng, Zhi Chen, Kai Gu, David Penson, Wei Lu, Xiao-Ou Shu.  “Quality of Life After Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Survival.”  J Clin Oncology, Feb 1, 2011:406-412.

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