Wednesday, September 25, 2013

‘Marriage improves cancer survival rate by 20% and can be BETTER than chemotherapy when it comes to battling the disease’

This is an old chestnut:  Does marriage make you healthier or are healthier people more likely to marry?  The second is almost certainly true.  But both could be true

Marriage has many benefits when it comes to raising children, buying a house, and having a hand to hold during life's toughest times.  But new research suggests that, for some cancer patients, having a husband or wife could be more beneficial than chemotherapy.

New research from Harvard University shows that, for 10 common kinds of cancer, being married means patients are 20 per cent less likely to die from the disease.

Academics found that people who were married were more likely to get diagnosed early, before tumours could spread, and more likely to have life-saving surgery.

Amazingly in some forms of cancer, including breast and colon, the benefits of being married outweighed the stated benefit of chemotherapy.

The study, of 750,000 people including those with lung and prostate cancer, also found that the effect was larger in men than in women.

Unmarried cancer patients - including those who were widowed - were 17 per cent more likely to have metastatic cancer, which spreads beyond its original site and were 53 per cent less likely to receive the appropriate therapy.

Dr Ayal Aizer, chief resident of the Harvard Radiation Oncology Programme, said: 'Our data suggests that marriage can have a significant health impact for patients with cancer, and this was consistent among every cancer that we reviewed.

'We suspect that social support from spouses is what's driving the striking improvement in survival.

'Spouses often accompany patients on their visits and make sure they understand the recommendations and complete all their treatments.'

However, the finding shouldn't be seen as a downer for singletons as Dr. Paul Nguyen, the study's senior author, said that the findings just showed the importance of strong social support, which could also be provided by family or close friends.

He said: 'We don't just see our study as an affirmation of marriage. 'Rather it should send a message to anyone who has a friend or a loved one with cancer, by being there for that person and helping them navigate their appointments and make it through all their treatments, you can make a real difference to that person's outcome.

'As oncologists, we need to be aware of our patients' available social supports and encourage them to seek and accept support from friends and family during this potentially difficult time.'

While this isn't the first study to identify a positive link between cancer survival rates and marriage, it is the first to link to the 10 most common cancers.

However researchers were unable to say exactly why marriage is so beneficial. One possibility is that patients with a spouse are more likely to undergo health screening which would diagnose cancer at an earlier stage.

Married people are then more likely to follow through with treatments and appointments, while widowed or single people may struggle to keep up with tough medical routines.

Dr. Victor Vogel, the director of breast medical oncology and research at Geisenger Health System, agrees, calling the study 'very proactive.'

He added: 'We need to help our patients find social support throughout their illness.

'If there isn’t a spouse to do that then we have to find other systems and networks to make that happen.'


Retirement age has NO impact on life expectancy...unless you are forced out of work without a choice

It seems reasonable that there should be both positives and negatives in early retirement

Whether you make your millions and retire young or work long into old age, your chance of having a long and healthy retirement will remain the same.

Australian researchers found that the age at which a person retires has no impact on how long they live.

Previous research has suggested that people who retire young lose their social networks and have less mental and physical activity meaning they are more likely to die young.

Other studies have concluded that people who work into old age are more likely to die young because they are subjected to stress for longer.

However, the latest research by the Australian School of Business is the most comprehensive study of its kind to date and it concluded that there is no correlation between retirement age and life expectancy.

‘While it is tempting to link retirement to life expectancy, the reality is that health status is the primary determining factor in when we die,’ said Professor John Piggott, Professor of Economics at the Australian School of Business.

‘Health influences both the timing of retirement and when we die which has sometimes caused confusion in earlier studies.’

However, the researchers did find that there is a strong correlation between being forced out of work, due to company closures or downsizes, and age of death.

Professor Piggott said: ‘When a person’s choice to leave work is removed, this does seem to impact mortality, most probably because of a variety of factors such as depression and loss of social networks.’

For the study, the researchers studied population data from the Norwegian government for the period from 1990 to 2010.

Through the 1990s, a significant number of public and private sector companies in Norway progressively reduced the pension access age from 67 to 62 causing employees to retire earlier than expected.  For the remainder of the population, the national retirement age remained at 67.

When comparing the longevity of individuals that retired early, with those who worked through to 67, the researchers could find no discernible difference.

This led them to conclude that retirement does not impact when we die.

Previous research has shown that people who work for longer are less likely to develop dementia.

Carole Dufoil and her team at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherché Médicale (INSERM) in France discovered that a person who retires at 65 is 15 per cent less likely to develop the condition than someone who retires at 60.

The researchers believe that this is because intellectual stimulation and mental engagement are protective against dementia.


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