Cervical or testicular cancer increases likelihood of divorce

2 Oct 2007

Married couples are more likely to divorce if one spouse develops testicular cancer or cervical cancer, according to new research from Norway.

The study, carried out by Mrs Astri Syse, a researcher at the Norwegian Cancer Registry in Oslo was presented at the 14th European Cancer Conference (ECCO 14) in Barcelona. It also found that for most types of cancer, there was a slight decrease in divorce rate in the first few years following diagnosis, indicating a strengthening of bonds between partners.

The divorce rates of 215,000 cancer survivors were compared with those of cancer free couples over a period of 17 years. It was revealed that women with cervical cancer were 40% more likely to get divorced and testicular cancer survivors were 20% more likely.

The study disagreed with the idea that husbands are likely to leave their wives after breast cancer, as survivors actually saw an 8% decrease in their likelihood of divorce.

Mrs Syse suggested that issues surrounding sexual intimacy may have influenced the findings, but that the main factor was likely that of age, as testicular and cervical cancer mostly affect young people:

“We conclude that that younger age is a stronger predictor than alterations in sexual function. It is also possible that sexual problems or a weakening of the emotional rewards from the union are particularly devastating early in a relationship and that an increased care load is most difficult to accept at an age when illness is most unexpected. Women with cervical cancer had an increased risk of divorce of 69% at age 20 years, but this risk was reduced to 19% at 60 years, implying that the effect of cervical cancer on divorce risk decreases with age. The same tendency was seen among men with testicular cancer. The increased risk of divorce was estimated to 34% at 20 years, while it was estimated to fall 16% below the risk of the general population at 60 years.”

Summarising his thoughts on the research, Professor John Smyth of the European Cancer Organisation (ECCO) suggested that sexual counseling would greatly benefit cervical and testicular cancer patients, potentially saving many marriages.