Survivors are 20 to 25 percent more likely "to never marry" compared with siblings and the general population, according to new findings. "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," said lead researcher Nina S. Kadan-Lottick.
Using data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, a retrospective cohort of more than 10,000 childhood cancer survivors (who are now adults) treated at 26 institutions around the country, Kadan-Lottick and colleagues evaluated the frequency of marriage and divorce rates among survivors compared with their sibling group and U.S. Census data.
Researchers distributed surveys to participants to determine late outcomes of therapy, medical problems, subsequent cancers, psychosocial functioning and other aspects of survivorship, according to the researchers. They identified patients and treatment factors that may predict marital status, including psychosocial distress and neurocognitive impairment.
"Our study pinpointed what aspects of the survivor experience likely contribute to altered marriage patterns: short stature, poor physical functioning and cognitive problems," said Kadan-Lottick. "These conditions are known to be associated with certain chemotherapy and radiation exposures."
Results showed that an estimated 42 percent of survivors were married, 7.3 percent were separated or divorced and 46 percent were never married. Those who survived brain tumors were 50 percent more likely never to marry. Survivors of central nervous system tumors and leukemia had the greatest likelihood of never marrying, according to the study. Cranial radiation was the therapy most associated with not getting married. Likelihood of divorce did not vary between the study populations.
"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. Our results suggest that survivors of childhood cancer need ongoing support even as they enter adulthood," Kadan-Lottick suggested.
MEDICA.de; Source: American Association for Cancer Research