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The bachelor - a potentially deadly way of life

Friday 28 October, 2011 by Laura

Can a walk down the aisle and saying ‘I do' really reduce our cancer risk? Norwegian researchers think so after finding that bachelors are twice as likely to die of cancer compared to married men. Their study looked at death rates over a 40 year period, and included over 440,000 men and women diagnosed with cancer.

The study found that men who'd never been married when diagnosed with cancer, rather than being divorced or widowed, were twice as likely to die (35% compared with 18% of men who have married). Marital status had less impact on women, though the death rate was still slightly higher among singletons - 22% versus 18%. And the trend is increasing: mortality rates for unmarried men have risen by 3.4% every decade.

I am not married but I can see some benefits to marriage - the rock, having a giant party with all your friends and family, getting to have a cake the same size as you, not to mention sharing your life with someone.

But is partnering up and signing a piece of paper really going to give you better odds of cancer survival? It seems unlikely that being single, or unmarried, is the cause of bachelors or bachelorettes having worse cancer outcomes.

But we can speculate as to why married people have better outcomes...*put your cancer prevention sleuth hat on please reader*.

Married people promise to stand by one another, in sickness and in health. It follows that with someone to remind you, you might be more likely to get check-ups and visit a doctor if you (or they) notice any changes to your body. This is important as early detection is vital in successfully treating cancer. Also, having the support of a spouse when going through cancer treatment could encourage the patient to follow treatment and lifestyle recommendations more thoroughly, which may influence the outcomes too.

Other behaviours should be considered as well. Previous studies have shown married people live longer, have better general health and tend to smoke and drink less than single people. So rather than marriage being a factor that effects cancer - it could be trends in behaviours, such as smoking, diet and drinking habits, that mean single people have worse cancer outcomes.

I think the most important message coming out of this research is that we should take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing. If you want the bachelor-life then make sure you're aware of how to cut your risk, be informed, and start conversations with loved ones about health issues.
Rather than invest your energy in searching for a ‘good woman' or a ‘good man' as a means to cut your cancer risk - stick to the proven methods such as eating a healthy diet, keeping physically active, getting check-ups, maintaining a healthy weight, quit smoking, be SunSmart, and limit your alcohol intake.

Has your Mr or Mrs Right saved your skin when it comes to health issues? Or are you single and you now want to get married because of the cake picture? We like stories, please share yours.

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