Many Childhood Cancer Survivors Never Marry

Certain forms of disease, treatment linked to greater likelihood of remaining single, study finds

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THURSDAY, Oct. 8, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood cancer survivors are 20 percent to 25 percent more likely to remain unmarried than their siblings or people in the general population, a U.S. study has found.

"Many childhood cancer survivors still struggle to fully participate in our society because of the lasting cognitive and physical effects of their past cancer therapy," lead researcher Dr. Nina S. Kadan-Lottick, an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Conn., said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

She and her colleagues analyzed data collected on 10,000 adults who were treated for childhood cancer at 26 U.S. institutions. About 42 percent of them were married, 7.3 percent were separated or divorced, and 46 percent were never married, the researchers found.

"Our study pinpointed what aspects of the survivor experience likely contribute to altered marriage patterns: short stature, poor physical functioning and cognitive problems. These conditions are known to be associated with certain chemotherapy and radiation exposures," added Kadan-Lottick, who is also medical director of Yale's Health Education, Research & Outcomes for Survivors (HEROS) Clinic for childhood cancer survivors.

The likelihood of marriage varied depending on the type of cancer or therapy, the study authors noted. Brain tumor survivors were 50 percent more likely to never marry, while survivors of central nervous system tumors and leukemia were the patients most likely to stay single. In terms of therapy, those who received cranial radiation were most likely to remain unwed.

"While it can be debated whether marriage is a desirable outcome, marriage is generally an expected developmental goal in our society to the extent that most U.S. adults are married by the age of 30," Kadan-Lottick said. "Our results suggest that survivors of childhood cancer need ongoing support even as they enter adulthood."

The study appeared online Oct. 8 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about childhood cancer.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Oct. 8, 2009

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