Social Ties Affect Breast Cancer Survival
Women with close ties to family, friends and members of their community have better odds of surviving breast cancer than socially isolated women. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente analyzed the results of four large studies involving data on 9,267 women to determine how factors such as exercise, diet, weight management and social interaction affect breast cancer survival. Earlier research has shown that women with more social support and connections have a lower risk of death overall. All the women in the new analysis were asked within two years of their breast cancer diagnosis about their personal relationships and social networks, including interaction with their spouses or partners, friends, religious and community organizations, and the number of their living first-degree relatives. The women were then followed for up to 20 years. The researchers reported that compared to women with many social ties, those in the studies who were socially isolated were 43 percent more likely to have a recurrence of breast cancer, 64 percent more likely to die from breast cancer and 69 percent more likely to die from any cause within the 20 years following their diagnosis.
My take? These new findings support what we’ve learned from earlier studies: people with well-developed social networks recover from illness faster, and some research suggests that social ties help us cope with illness and reduce stress. It’s important to bear in mind that human beings are social animals, a
nd it’s necessary to recognize and honor our need for connectedness in fostering good health. Unless we experience connection to others in a meaningful way, I believe we put ourselves at risk of developing spiritual, mental and, ultimately, physical illness.
Candyce H. Kroenke et al, “Postdiagnosis social networks and breast cancer mortality in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project.” Cancer, December 12, 2016, DOI: 10.1002/cncr.30440
Also from this week’s bulletin: