The Corner

The Medical Consequences of the Retreat from Marriage

I did not expect to run into a study (based on comprehensive data in Denmark) in the International Journal of Cancer that shows so clearly that the retreat from marriage — not just as a legal act but as a norm — has medical consequences. Here’s the abstract:

Few population-based studies have investigated the relation between living arrangements and risk of invasive penile squamous cell carcinoma (iP-SCC). Using long-term national cancer registry data in Denmark we examined incidence trends of iP-SCC. Furthermore, we examined the relation between marital status, cohabitation status and risk of iP-SCC using hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) obtained in Cox proportional hazards regression analyses as our measure of relative risk. Overall, 1,292 cases of iP-SCC were identified during 65.6 million person-years of observation between 1978 and 2010. During this period, the WHO world age-standardized incidence remained relatively stable (p-trend = 0.41) with an average incidence of 1.05 cases per 100,000 person-years. When compared to married men, those who were unmarried (HR 1.37; 95% CI: 1.13–1.66), divorced (HR 1.49; 95% CI: 1.24–1.79) or widowed (HR 1.36; 95% CI: 1.13–1.63) were at increased risk of iP-SCC. Regarding cohabitation status, single-living men were at increased risk of iP-SCC compared to men in opposite-sex cohabitation (HR 1.43; 95% CI: 1.26–1.62). Risk increased with increasing numbers of prior opposite-sex (p-trend = 0.02) and same-sex (p-trend < 0.001) cohabitations. In conclusion, single-living Danish men and men who are not currently married are at increased risk of iP-SCC, and the risk increases with the number of prior cohabitations, perhaps reflecting less stable sexual relations in these subgroups.