Social Network, Early Breast Cancer Prognosis Link Explored

Only women with small social network and low levels of support have increased mortality

TUESDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- For women with early-stage breast cancer, large social networks predict better prognosis, and this association varies based on social support and burden, according to a study published online Nov. 9 in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

Candyce H. Kroenke, Sc.D., M.P.H., from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., and colleagues examined how the levels of social support and burden influence the association between larger social networks and lower breast cancer mortality. Data on social networks were assessed from 2,264 women from the Life After Cancer Epidemiology study who were diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer between 1997 and 2000.

During a median of 10.8 years of follow-up there were 401 deaths, 215 of which were from breast cancer. The researchers found that social isolation was not associated with recurrence or breast cancer-specific mortality. Socially isolated women had elevated all-cause mortality and mortality from other causes (hazard ratios [HRs], 1.34 and 1.79, respectively). The associations were modified by levels of social support and burden. Higher all-cause mortality was predicted for those with low, but not high, levels of social support from friends and family, lack of religious/social participation (HR, 1.58), and lack of volunteering (HR, 1.78). In a cross-classification analysis, compared with women with large networks and high levels of support, women with both small networks and low levels of support had significantly increased mortality (HR, 1.61), while those with small networks and high levels of support had no increased risk of mortality (HR, 1.13; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.74 to 1.72).

"Larger social networks predicted better prognosis after breast cancer, but associations depended on the quality and burden of family relationships," the authors write.

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