Social Isolation May Worsen Breast Cancer Prospects

Patients with early breast cancer who are socially isolated have a higher risk of dying from their disease, a new study suggests.

Women with fewer social ties — to friends, family, community and religious groups, as well as spouses or romantic partners — were 43 percent more likely to see their breast cancer return, 64 percent more likely to die from breast cancer and 69 percent more likely to die from any cause, according to a study published Monday in the journal Cancer.

Although the study finds a link between social ties and health, it doesn’t prove that strong social support actually prolongs life, said coauthor Wendy Chen, a breast cancer medical oncologist at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While researchers considered a number of explanations for the difference in women’s outcomes, it’s possible that something other than social support explains why some women lived longer than others.

Yet social connections can help patients with cancer in many ways.

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