Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer, affecting women worldwide. Although the survival rate is very high when the disease is discovered early, new research suggests that having a large social network might also affect a person’s chances of survival.
Breast cancer affects hundreds of thousands of women around the world each year. In the United States alone 246,660 women are estimated to receive a breast cancer diagnosis every year. That is 1 in every 8 women. Around 40,000 American women die of breast cancer every year. However, breast cancer survival rates look encouraging, especially if the disease is detected early.
Since 1990, breast cancer survival rates have been increasing. Due to better screening practices, increased public awareness and early detection, and improved technology and treatments, mortality in women aged 50 and older has been declining significantly for the past 2 decades. In the U.S. there are currently over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors.
Examining the link between loneliness and breast cancer
Recent studies have shown that loneliness and lack of social connections increase the risk of premature death.
In fact, some studies have suggested that social isolation and living alone increase the risk of mortality by as much as 29 and 32 percent, respectively. Researchers led by Dr. Candyce Kroenke, of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, CA, set out to examine the link between social isolation and breast cancer survival rates.
Dr. Kroenke and team investigated the medical records of 9,267 women with breast cancer. The median follow-up period was 10.6 years, during which 1,448 cancer recurrences and 1,521 deaths were recorded. Of the 1,521 deaths, 990 were from breast cancer.
Scientists wanted to see how the patients’ survival is affected by their social networks within 2 years from the diagnosis. The research findings were published in the journal Cancer.
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