Social Networks Affect Breast Cancer Outcomes

Social Networks Affect Breast Cancer Outcomes

Take-Home Message:

The degree of connection to society (family and friends) has a direct effect on risk of recurrence and death among breast cancer patients.


Postdiagnosis Social Networks and Breast Cancer Mortality in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project

Authors: Kroenke, C. H. et al.

Source: Cancer 2016 doi:10.1002/cncr.30440

Social networks are defined as the web of social relationships of an individual. Many studies have shown that people with larger social networks have better health, with lower mortality. This includes breast cancer patients. This study examined specific features of social networks and how they may affect breast cancer outcomes.

Over 9,000 women with breast cancer were included in the study. There were over 1400 women with recurrences and over 1500 women who died. Each woman’s social network was evaluated for the following components: spouse/intimate partner, number of relatives, friendship ties, religious/social ties and community ties.

Socially isolated women were more likely to be white, college educated and have not had children. They were also more likely to be physically inactive, regular smokers, heavier consumers of alcohol and obese. Social isolation was more commonly associated with a lower likelihood of receiving chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, and a higher likelihood of having a lumpectomy.

Compared to socially integrated women, socially isolated women had higher risks of breast cancer recurrence, breast cancer-specific mortality and overall mortality.

Looking at specific network features such as marital status, religious ties, ties to relatives and community ties, none of them was equally helpful to all of the women in the study. It was noted that the specifics of each feature varied according to ethnic and cultural traditions, and that those specific qualities probably played roles in women’s outcomes.

This study provides more details about the specifics of social networks and how they directly affect the outcomes of women with breast cancer. The information encourages breast cancer care providers to explore each patient’s social network, understanding that it probably plays a large role in the success of each patient’s treatment.