Do people improve health behavior after their partner is diagnosed with cancer? A prospective study in the Danish diet, Cancer and Health Cohort

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Nicole P. M. Ezendam, Randi V. Karlsen, Jane Christensen, Anne Tjønneland, Lonneke V. van de Poll-Franse, Annika von Heymann-Horan, Christoffer Johansen, Pernille E. Bidstrup

Background: The cancer diagnosis is regarded as a stressful life event that is thought to trigger a teachable moment to induce health behavior changes among cancer patients. However, this may also hold true for their partners. We assessed if partners of cancer patients make more health behavior changes compared to persons whose partner remained cancer-free. Methods: Lifestyles was assessed in the prospective Danish Diet, Cancer and Health study. Logistic regression analyses were used to assess health behavior change among partners of cancer patients (n = 672) compared to partners of persons who remained cancer-free (n = 5534). Additionally, associations in two subgroups were assessed: bereaved partners and partners of patients who remained alive after cancer. Results: Partners of cancer patients were more likely to decrease their alcohol intake compared to partners of persons who remained cancer free. This finding could mainly be attributed to bereaved partners. Moreover, bereaved partners were also more likely to decrease their BMI. In contrast to our hypothesis, bereaved partners were more likely to decrease fruit intake and increase sugared beverages compared to partners of persons who remained cancer free. In general, men tended to improve their physical activity, while women tended to worsen their physical activity following the cancer diagnosis of their partner. Conclusions: A cancer diagnosis in the partner does seem to improve health behavior change only for alcohol intake. Bereaved partners tend to worsen dietary behaviors after the patient's death.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Oncologica
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)700-707
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 224385219