Women's Social Networks May Play Role in Breast Cancer Survival and Recurrence

Having strong social support may lead to better breast cancer outcomes, according to a recent study.
Women with breast cancer who are socially isolated tend to have higher rates of recurrence and mortality, according to a new study published today in the journal CANCER.

Researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California found that these women had a 40 percent higher risk of recurrence, a 60 percent higher risk of dying from breast cancer and a 70 percent higher risk of dying from any cause when compared with socially integrated women. The associations were stronger in those with stage 1 and 2 cancer, stated the study.

“Social ties seem to be strong predictors of mortality in generally healthy populations, but this large study also seems to confirm the importance of social ties for breast cancer-specific deaths as well as for recurrence, so it confirmed associations that I had found a decade ago,” Candyce Kroenke, Sc.D., lead researcher on the study, said in an interview with CURE.

She and her team studied 9,267 women from four smaller cohorts of women from across the United States and Shanghai, China, to see how their social networks might affect their survival.

A social network was defined by the presence of a spouse/partner, religious ties, community ties, friendship ties and numbers of living first-degree relatives. The women participating provided data within two years of diagnosis.

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