Having a strong social network—and this can include having a partner and friends or an extended family, or being a member of some community group, or going to the local church—seems to have a protective effect, and reduces the risk of dying from the cancer. In fact, strong social ties lower the odds of dying from a range of chronic diseases.
Researchers from the Kaiser Permanente research centre in California discovered the protective powers of strong social networks when they profiled 9,267 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
During the follow-up, there were 1,448 recurrences of the cancer, and 1,521 women had died, although only 990 had died from the cancer. Recurrences and deaths were more common in women who lived on their own or had little or no social interaction outside the home: they were 1.43 times more likely to see the breast cancer recur, and were 1.64 times more likely to die from the cancer. They were also 1.69 times more likely to die from any disease.
Having a partner and strong community ties had more of a protective effect among white women, while having an extended family and friends was more important among non-white women.