‘Couple cancer’ is an increasingly common phenomenon whereby the couple both have cancer. This is unrelated to genetic influence, but a result of environmental and lifestyle factors.
Couples who live together often share similar habits, hobbies and even mentality. They exert profound influences on one another. They live under the same rooftop, sleep in the same bed, spend the day together, and eat meals together. Important lifestyle factors include smoking or passive smoking, and abnormal dietary habits such as excessive consumption of preserved and pickled food, alcohol consumption, and unhealthy ways to cook food. Psychological and emotional influences such as prolonged stress and anxiety can also exert adverse health effects on the spouse. Hence, ‘couple cancer’ is a phenomenon that deserves our attention.
Bacterial or viral infections are capable of transmission between close daily contacts. For example the hepatitis B virus predisposes to liver cancer, and the Helicobacter pylori bacterium that is a carcinogen for both stomach cancer and gastric lymphoma. One of the couple diagnosed with cancer inevitably exerts negative psychological influences on the spouse, resulting in suppressed immunity.
Prolonged stress, anxiety and negative emotions also lead to adverse health effects. Furthermore, there may be other important factors contributing to ‘couple cancer’ that we are not yet aware of.
According to Shanghai Cancer Institute, a World Health Organisation Collaborating Center for Research on Cancer, 5% of deaths that occur in couples are result of malignancy.
Due attention to various unhealthy lifestyle and environmental factors can help to reduce the occurrence of ‘couple cancer’.