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21-12-2010 | Oncology | Article

Social wellbeing linked to improved breast cancer outcome


Free abstract

MedWire News: Social wellbeing in the first 6 months after a breast cancer diagnosis is significantly associated with a decreased risk for recurrence and death from the disease after treatment, research shows.

Of the aspects of social wellbeing assessed, marriage and family, social support, and interpersonal relationships were most strongly inversely related with mortality or recurrence, report Meira Epplein (Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, USA) and colleagues.

The researchers conducted a prospective study of breast cancer survivors to evaluate how self-rated quality of life (QoL) at is associated with breast cancer outcome.

At 6-months postdiagnosis, 2230 participants of the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survivor Study completed the General Quality of Life Inventory-74 survey, which assesses global health status as well as physical, psychological, social, and material wellbeing. A subset of these women (n=1845) repeated the survey at 36 months postdiagnosis.

During a median follow-up of 4.8 years after the initial QoL assessment, 284 women died and 267 had a breast cancer recurrence.

At the 6-month assessment, only greater social wellbeing was significantly associated with a decreased risk for total mortality or recurrence. Specifically, women in the highest tertile of social well-being QoL score (indicating a higher level of social well-being), had a significant 38% decreased risk for mortality and a 48% decreased risk for breast cancer recurrence, compared with those in the lowest tertile.

Further analysis showed that women in the highest QoL tertiles for marriage and family, social support, and interpersonal relationships had respective 43%, 40%, and 35% reduced risks for recurrence compared with women in the lowest tertiles.

Of note, by 36 months, none of the aspects of QoL assessed were associated with subsequent risk for mortality or recurrence.

"Social well-being in the first year after cancer diagnosis is a significant prognostic factor for breast cancer recurrence or mortality, suggesting a possible avenue of intervention by maintaining or enhancing social support for women soon after their breast cancer diagnosis to improve disease outcomes," Epplein and co-authors conclude in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

Laura Dean

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