(HealthDay News) — Unmarried patients are at significantly higher risk of presentation with metastatic cancer, undertreatment, and cancer-related death, according to a study published online Sept. 23 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Ayal A. Aizer, M.D., from Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues utilized data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program to identify 1,260,898 patients diagnosed with lung, colorectal, breast, pancreatic, prostate, liver/intrahepatic bile duct, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, head/neck, ovarian, or esophageal cancer (2004 through 2008).

The researchers found that married patients were less likely to present with metastatic disease (adjusted odds ratio, 0.83), more likely to receive definitive therapy (adjusted odds ratio, 1.53), and less likely to die as a result of their cancer (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.80), compared to unmarried patients, after adjusting for demographics, stage, and treatment. Analysis of each individual cancer showed similar significant associations for all end points. For all outcomes, the benefit associated with marriage was greater in males than females. The survival benefit associated with marriage was larger than the published survival benefit of chemotherapy for prostate, breast, colorectal, esophageal, and head/neck cancers.

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“This study highlights the potentially significant impact that social support can have on cancer detection, treatment, and survival,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

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