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Social isolation linked to higher recurrence and mortality rates in women with breast cancer

Women with breast cancer who are more socially isolated have higher rates of recurrence and mortality than women with larger social networks, new study results suggest. 
Social_isolation_linked_to_higher_mortality_rates_tile-iStock.jpg

Women with breast cancer who are more socially isolated have higher rates of recurrence and mortality than women with larger social networks, new study results suggest.

Researchers in California studied 9,267 women who provided data on social networks within approximately two years of their diagnosis.

A social network index was derived from information about the presence of a spouse/partner, religious, friendship and community ties, and the number of living first-degree relatives.

Over a median follow-up of 10.6 years, there were 1,448 cancer recurrences and 1,521 deaths, 990 of which were from breast cancer.

Higher risks

Compared with socially integrated women, the researchers found that those who were socially isolated had a 40% higher risk of

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Women with breast cancer who are more socially isolated have higher rates of recurrence and mortality than women with larger social networks, new study results suggest.


Socially isolated women had a 40% higher risk of the recurrence of breast cancer and a 60%
higher risk of dying from breast cancer. Picture: iStock

Researchers in California studied 9,267 women who provided data on social networks within approximately two years of their diagnosis. 

A social network index was derived from information about the presence of a spouse/partner, religious, friendship and community ties, and the number of living first-degree relatives. 

Over a median follow-up of 10.6 years, there were 1,448 cancer recurrences and 1,521 deaths, 990 of which were from breast cancer. 

Higher risks 

Compared with socially integrated women, the researchers found that those who were socially isolated had a 40% higher risk of recurrence, a 60% higher risk of dying from breast cancer and a 70% higher risk of dying from any cause. The associations were found to be stronger in those with stage I/II cancer. 

They found that specific associations differed by age, race/ethnicity and country of origin. Ties to relatives and friends predicted lower breast cancer-specific mortality in non-white women, while having a spouse predicted lower breast cancer-specific mortality in older white women. Community ties predicted better outcomes in older white and Asian women. 

Lead study author Candyce Kroenke said: ‘These findings confirm the generally beneficial influence of women’s social ties on breast cancer recurrence and mortality. They also point to complexity: not all social ties are beneficial, and not in all women.’

She added that additional research is needed to understand the mechanisms through which social networks influence outcomes so that effective interventions can be developed. 


Kroenke C et al (2016) Post diagnosis social networks and breast cancer mortality in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.30440 

 

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