Being married might have its downsides, but dying early of cancer isn't one of them.
Scientists have found a strong correlation between staying alive and having a spouse. Death rates for bachelors fighting cancer are 27 percent higher than similarly afflicted married men, while for unmarried women, it's 19 percent higher.
"While other studies have found similar protective effects associated with being married, ours is the first in a large population-based setting to assess the extent to which economic resources explain these protective effects," says Scarlett Lin Gomez of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, who led the study.
The health records of more than 800,000 patients diagnosed with cancer in the US between 2000 and 2009 were looked at in the study. Other factors -- such as whether the patients had health insurance or were living in wealthier neighbourhoods -- only had a small impact on their longevity, compared with marital status.
"Research is needed to understand the specific reasons behind these associations so that future unmarried patients can receive interventions to increase their chances of survival," says study co-leader Maria Elena Martinez of the University of California's San Diego School of Medicine.
The researchers say the findings have implications for the future of the fight against cancer, with a growing number of people opting to stay single and/or unmarried.
They say health professionals helping unmarried patients fight cancer should encourage them to seek emotional and physical support.
The research is published today in the American Cancer Society's journal, CANCER.