Study shows marital status could impact on breast cancer prognosis

• An international study, with the participation of over 500,000 women, reveals that women who are married when diagnosed with breast cancer have a better chance of survival, regardless of tumor characteristics

• The study, in which the Vall d´Hebron University Hospital and the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) have participated, will be presented at the 50th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), May 30 – June 03, Chicago IL, USA.


Barcelona, May 27, 2013
. An international study of 549,589 women with breast cancer in stages I to IV, conducted between 1990 and 2010, shows that marital status may affect the prognosis of the disease. Among married women with an average age of 56 when diagnosed with the disease, an improvement in the prognosis of the cancer was observed, with a breast-specific five-year survival rate of 89%. However, among the unmarried patients (including those that have never married, are separated, divorced, or widowed), the survival rate was 82%. Furthermore, in the case of married women, representing 56.8% of the population studied, findings reveal that their disease was discovered at early stage and with smaller tumors.

Findings have also shown that in married women, the more advanced the disease, the higher the improvement in the survival rate. Subsequently, among patients with stage I, II, III and IV, an improvement at 5 years of 1%, 3%, 9% and 7%, respectively, has been reported. Moreover, there seems to be a relationship between marital status and the age at which the disease is diagnosed: in the case of unmarried women, survival worsens with age.

This study provides an interesting perspective since it determines that, regardless of the stage or cancer biology of the tumor, an emotional factor could impact on the prognosis of breast cancer. The causes of this are unknown and would need to be explored in future studies.

As Javier Cortés, co-author of the study, Principal Investigator of VHIO´s Breast Cancer and Melanoma Group, and Director of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital´s Breast Cancer Program, observes, “it is an interesting study that shows that, regardless of the stage and type of the tumor, a married woman has a better prognosis than an unmarried woman. The effect of marital status on the disease, as highlighted by the results, calls for further exploration in order to decipher the implicated causes. In the meantime however, we must consider that emotional and, or, social factors can play an important role in a better or worse breast cancer prognosis”.

The impact of marital status on the prognosis of the disease seems to be greater among older rather than younger patients. The causes are multifactorial, but could be due to a more aggressive biology in the case of the latter and an increased need for a support system among the former.

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For more information please contact:

Amanda Wren

Director of Communication, Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO): Tel.: +34 695207886, Email: awren@vhio.net.

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