Prognostic significance of marital status in breast cancer survival: A population-based study

PLoS One. 2017 May 5;12(5):e0175515. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0175515. eCollection 2017.


Research shows that married cancer patients have lower mortality than unmarried patients but few data exist for breast cancer. We assessed total mortality associated with marital status, with attention to differences by race/ethnicity, tumor subtype, and neighborhood socioeconomic status (nSES). We included, from the population-based California Cancer Registry, women ages 18 and older with invasive breast cancer diagnosed between 2005 and 2012 with follow-up through December 2013. We estimated mortality rate ratios (MRR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for total mortality by nSES, race/ethnicity, and tumor subtype. Among 145,564 breast cancer cases, 42.7% were unmarried at the time of diagnosis. In multivariable-adjusted models, the MRR (95% CI) for unmarried compared to married women was 1.28 (1.24-1.32) for total mortality. Significant interactions were observed by race/ethnicity (P<0.001), tumor subtype (P<0.001), and nSES (P = 0.009). Higher MRRs were observed for non-Hispanic whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders than for blacks or Hispanics, and for HR+/HER2+ tumors than other subtypes. Assessment of interactive effect between marital status and nSES showed that unmarried women living in low SES neighborhoods had a higher risk of dying compared with married women in high SES neighborhoods (MRR = 1.60; 95% CI: 1.53-1.67). Unmarried breast cancer patients have higher total mortality than married patients; the association varies by race/ethnicity, tumor subtype, and nSES. Unmarried status should be further evaluated as a breast cancer prognostic factor. Identification of underlying causes of the marital status associations is needed to design interventions that could improve survival for unmarried breast cancer patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marriage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Social Class
  • Survival Analysis*

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Specialized Cancer Center Support Grant to the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center (CA023100-29) and the Stanford Cancer Institute. The collection of cancer incidence data used in this study was supported by the California Department of Public Health as part of the statewide cancer reporting program mandated by California Health and Safety Code Section 103885; the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program under contract HHSN261201000140C awarded to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, contract HHSN261201000035C awarded to the University of Southern California, and contract HHSN261201000034C awarded to the Public Health Institute; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Program of Cancer Registries, under agreement U58DP003862-01 awarded to the California Department of Public Health. The ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and endorsement by the State of California, Department of Public Health the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or their Contractors and Subcontractors is not intended nor should be inferred.