The Right Social Interaction May Improve the Chances of Surviving Cancer

By Lurz, Nathan | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 6, 2017 | Go to article overview

The Right Social Interaction May Improve the Chances of Surviving Cancer


Lurz, Nathan, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Nathan Lurz, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital

A new study suggests chemotherapy patients are more likely to live longer if they interact with other chemo patients during treatments.

The study from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom reviewed electronic medical records from 2000 to 2009 from two major hospitals in the UK's National Health Service.

Researchers found cancer patients were more likely to survive for five years or more after chemotherapy if they interacted during chemotherapy with other patients who survived for five years or more. Conversely, patients who were around those who did not survive for more than five years were more likely to die earlier themselves.

The researchers didn't study why the difference occurred, but hypothesize that it may be related to stress response.

"When you're stressed, stress hormones such as adrenaline are released, resulting in a fight or flight response," says Jeff Lienert, lead author in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch and a National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program fellow, in a news release. "If you are then unable to fight or fly, such as in chemotherapy, these hormones can build up."

Lienart theorizes the effect of visitors on cancer patients undergoing therapy would likely be similar. He says positive social support during moments of great stress is crucial.

"People model behavior based on what's around them," says Lienert. "For example, you will often eat more when you're dining with friends, even if you can't see what they're eating. …

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