Loneliness may sabotage breast cancer survival, study finds

Loneliness may impede long-term breast cancer survival, a new study suggests. In the years after treatment, women who don’t have strong social ties are more likely to have their cancer return or die from it than women with friends and a support network, the researchers found.

Reviewing data on nearly 10,000 breast cancer patients, the researchers linked isolation with a 40 percent higher risk of cancer recurrence compared to socially connected women. These solitary women also had a 60 percent increased risk of dying from breast cancer and a 70 percent increased risk of dying from any cause, the study found. The results weren’t unexpected, the researchers said.

“It is well established that women generally and those with breast cancer with greater social ties have a lower risk of death overall,” said lead researcher Candyce Kroenke. She’s with Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

People are social animals, said Kassandra Alcaraz, strategic director for health equity research at the American Cancer Society. “We were not meant to be isolated, so the benefits we get from relationships with others and being part of a community are not surprising,” she said. “We know that social relationships are important to general health and well-being.”

Exactly why this is so isn’t entirely clear, Alcaraz said. “Having social ties may provide access to real assistance, like having someone to take you to the doctor or having someone to talk to about your concerns or connecting you with resources that can help you cope with the cancer,” she said.

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