Socially isolated breast cancer survivors are at increased risk of a relapse -- thereby increasing their risk of dying -- while women with larger social networks experience better outcomes, new research has found.
"It is well established that larger social networks predict lower overall mortality in healthy populations and in breast cancer patients, but associations with breast cancer-specific outcomes like recurrence and breast cancer mortality have been mixed," said Candyce Kroenke from Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California.
"These findings, from a large pooled cohort of nearly 10,000 women with breast cancer, confirm the generally beneficial influence of women's social ties on breast cancer recurrence and mortality; however, they also point to complexity, that not all social ties are beneficial, and not in all women," Kroenke noted.
The researchers examined information on 9,267 women with breast cancer to see how patients' social networks within approximately two years following their diagnosis might affect their survival.
Over a median follow-up of 10.6 years, there were 1448 cancer recurrences and 1521 deaths (990 from breast cancer).
Compared with socially integrated women, socially isolated women had a 40 per cent higher risk of recurrence, a 60 per cent higher risk of dying from breast cancer, and a 70 per cent higher risk of dying from any cause.
The study was published online in the journal CANCER.