Studies looking at cancer and the risk of divorce have shown that there is no increased risk and in fact there is a slightly reduced risk for a few years after diagnosis. A new study by a Norwegian group confirms this finding with two important exceptions: cervical or testicular cancer. Women who developed cervical cancer were 40 percent more likely than normal to get divorced and testicular cancer survivors were 20 percent more likely to get divorced.
How cancer might influence divorce
Norwegian researchers carried out one of the largest and best controlled study on how cancer might influence divorce. They presented their finding at the European Cancer Conference (ECCO 14) in Barcelona, Spain today 27 Sept 2007.
Men divorcing breast cancer survivors again shown to be a myth
Looking at over 215,000 cancer survivors, the researchers found that the myth that men are more likely to abandon their wives after breast cancer was untrue, confirming previous studys' findings. In fact breast cancer survivors had an 8% decrease in the rate of divorces. This decrease in divorce rate was true for many other cancers also.
Cervical and testicular cancer increase risk of divorce
However the divorce risk increased with cervical and testicular cancer. These two cancers affect intimacy, resulting in decreases in sexual desire, enjoyment and fertility. This may not explain the increase in divorce rate though. Any change in fertility was taken into account in the study and both cancers are detected very early which means the treatment has minimal effect on sex life.
Age of diagnosis may be major factor in risk of divorce in these cancers
What did track more closely was the age of the patient. The younger the cancer patient, the more likely the chance of divorce. Mrs Astri Syse, a researcher at the Norwegian Cancer Registry in Oslo, Norway, who led the study suggests that the increased care load and stress at an age when most people are healthy may seriously stress the relationship.
“Women with cervical cancer had an increased risk of divorce of 69% at age 20 years, but this risk was reduced to 19% at 60 years, implying that the effect of cervical cancer on divorce risk decreases with age,” Syse said. “The same tendency was seen among men with testicular cancer. The increased risk of divorce was estimated at 34% at 20 years, while it was estimated to fall 16% below the risk of the general population at 60 years.”
Social factors may be involved in the lower risk of divorce in many other cancer types
The reason why the divorce rate is lower for many other types of cancer survivors may be due to social pressure where a separation or divorce may be considered inappropriate. Feelings of guilt or even a true re-evaluation of the relationship may occur.
Poor chance of survival lowered rate of divorce
The study did point to another reason. Where a patient has a poor chance of survival, the divorce rate was lowered. Divorce was least likely to occur when the cancer had spread or for types of cancer that have a poor outcome, and more likely in cancers with a good chance of recovery.
The 14th European Cancer Conference is taking place in the new International Conference Centre in Barcelona from September 23rd to 27th in 2007. ECCO 14 will provide the largest ever multidisciplinary forum for discussing the entire spectrum of cancer research and management.