All You Need is Love: Falling in Love Decreases Breast Cancer Mortality

Major life events regarding close personal relationships may play a role in mortality.

Falling in love and engaging in hobbies is associated with a decrease in breast cancer mortality, a new study finds.

Prior research suggests that long-term activation of the body’s stress-response system and overexposure to stress hormones may be associated with increased morbidity. Despite this, evidence on the effects major life events have on mortality from breast cancer has remained inconclusive.

In a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, investigators sought to examine whether major negative or positive life events before or after diagnosis impacted mortality in women who had survived with breast cancer for a least 2 years.

The investigators used data on life events from a self-administered survey, as well as data on breast cancer from the Finnish Cancer Registry to conduct their case fatality study. Cox models were used to estimate breast cancer mortality hazard ratios between patients who underwent major life events and those who had not.

The results of the study showed that none of the prediagnostic negative life events had an effect on breast cancer mortality. For post-diagnostic events, the effect was greatest in women with moderate scores of events, according to the study.

Regarding event-specific scores, the investigators found an increase in breast cancer mortality with spouse unemployment, relationship issues, and death of a close friend. Contrastingly, falling in love and positive developments in hobbies were associated with lower mortality.

An analysis restricted to recently diagnosed cases, found that death of a child and of a mother was associated with increased breast cancer mortality.

“Some major life events regarding close personal relationships may play a role in [breast cancer]-specific mortality, with certain negative life events increasing [breast cancer] mortality and positive events decreasing it,” the authors concluded. “The observed favorable associations between positive developments in romantic relationships and hobbies and breast cancer mortality are likely to reflect the importance of social interaction and support.”

The authors noted that the findings indicate the importance of social interaction and an active lifestyle. Additionally, personalized mental and social support should be encouraged after diagnosis.