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Although previous research has shown that women with larger social networks have better rates of breast cancer survival than women with smaller social networks, a new study shows that the quality of those relationships also has an impact on survival. 

The latest research focused on 2,264 women who took part in the Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study. The women, who received diagnoses of early-stage, invasive breast cancer between 1997 and 2000, provided data regarding their social networks, social support, and caregiving. 

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During a median follow-up of 10.8 years, 401 deaths occurred, including 215 from breast cancer. Social isolation was shown to be unrelated to recurrence or to breast cancer-specific mortality. However, socially isolated women had a 34% greater risk of all-cause mortality, including death from breast cancer. 

Investigators also reported in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment that levels of support within relationships were important risk factors for breast cancer mortality. Specifically, patients with small social networks but high levels of support from those networks were not at any greater mortality risk than were women with large social networks, but patients with small networks and low levels of support were 61% more likely to die from breast cancer and other causes than were the women with small networks but high levels of support. ONA