Married men with prostate cancer 40% less likely to die than their single counterparts
By Pat Hagan
Married men who get prostate cancer are 40 per cent less likely to die from the disease than those who are single, a new study shows.
A happy marriage appears to have a powerful protective effect against the devastating effects of a tumour.
It's not clear why wedlock bolsters survival prospects, but one theory is that men who have been through a divorce or who are widowed are more at risk because of the damaging effects of stress on their bodies.
It may also be that married men are more likely to seek medical help at the first sign of symptoms because of encouragement from their wives.
The study results, published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Urology, support the findings of similar earlier work which showed the health benefits of steady relationships.
In 2011, an international study involving 163,000 volunteers found unmarried men with prostate cancer were 30 per cent more likely to die from their disease than their married counterparts.
Married men were also more likely to have less advanced cancer because they sought help earlier.
Nearly 32,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK and 10,000 men die from it - the equivalent of more than one an hour.
The risks increase with age, with men over 50 more likely to develop a tumour, and there is a strong genetic element to it. Early diagnosis is crucial in order to boost survival prospects.
To see if marital status had a significant impact on mortality rates, experts at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, studied almost 116,000 men between 1988 and 2003 to see how many developed prostate cancer during that period.
When they matched the results up with data on marital status, they found married men were more likely to turn up at their doctors with lower-grade tumours that were at a less advanced stage.
In terms of death rates, they found unmarried men were 40 per cent more likely to end up dying from the disease than those who were settled with a partner.
Five years after diagnosis, the researchers found, 89 per cent of married men were still alive, compared with just 80 per cent of those who were single.
In a report on their findings the researchers said: 'Unmarried men have a higher risk of prostate cancer-specific mortality compared to married men of similar age, rage, tumour stage and grade.'
Cancer is not the only area where marriage can be beneficial.
A 2010 study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, also found being happily married helped to ward off agony of arthritis.
Patients who were blissfully hitched reported less joint pain than those who were single or in an unhappy marriage, because their emotional stability had a powerful painkilling effect.