Washington: Scientists have discovered a new cancer treatment that outranks all others - marriage.Married patients with advanced lung cancer are likely to survive longer after treatment than patients who are single.

According to a study by the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore. Similar benefits have been seen in other cancers, including those of the prostate, and head and neck.

The researchers studied 168 patients with Stage III non-small cell lung cancer, the most common type of lung cancer, who were treated with chemotherapy and radiation over a 10-year-period.

They found that 33 per cent of married patients were still alive after three years compared to 10 per cent of the single patients, with women faring better than men. Married women had the best three-year survival rate (46 per cent) against 3 per cent in single men.

Single women and married men had the same 25 survival rate at three years. White married patients had a better survival rate than married African-Americans.

"Marital status appears to be an important independent predictor of survival in patients with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer," said the study's lead author, Elizabeth Nichols.

"The reason for this is unclear, but our findings suggest the importance of social support in managing and treating our lung cancer patients. Patients may need help with day-to-day activities, getting to treatment and making sure they receive proper follow-up care," Nichols said in a statement.

"We believe that better supportive care and support mechanisms for cancer patients can have a greater impact on increasing survival than many new cancer therapy techniques," he said.

Previous studies have found decreased survival for single men diagnosed with several types of cancer, including prostate and head-and-neck cancers.

"We need to better understand why marriage is a factor in our patients' survival," said Dr Feigenberg, radiation oncologist at the University of Maryland Greenebaum. Lung cancer is the Number one cause of cancer death in both men and women, and this study suggests that having a spouse who can act as a caregiver may improve survival for patients with this type of cancer, the researchers said.

The researchers presented their findings at the 2012 Symposium on Thoracic Oncology in Chicago.


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