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Protective coexistence: Smaller cancer risk in larger families
A new study has shown that large families have a lower risk of cancer. According to the researchers, family size reduces the risk not only for women, but also for men. The positive effect is probably also due to the fact that the family members support each other in a healthy lifestyle.
Not only partnerships have a positive impact on health
Previous scientific studies have shown that a partnership can also have a positive impact on health. One of the reasons for this is that the partners support each other in a healthy lifestyle. Apparently, this effect is even stronger when the couple have children. In a new study, researchers from Switzerland and Australia have now found that the size of a family has an impact on cancer risk.
Support each other in a healthy lifestyle
Last year, US scientists reported that living together in a marriage improves health.
And British researchers found in an older study that many people live healthier thanks to the partner, partly because they put off unhealthy behaviors.
Other research showed that mostly women promote men's health because they care more about healthy eating, smoke less and drink alcohol less often.
A new study now also provides information on how effective it can be if family members support each other in a healthy lifestyle. Because this obviously reduces the risk of cancer.
Incidence of various types of cancer is increasing
Researchers from the Institute for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich (UZH) and the Australian Adelaide Medical School have now found in a study published in the specialist magazine "BMC Cancer" that large families have a lower risk of cancer.
According to the scientists, family size reduces the risk not only for women, but also for men.
To arrive at their results, the experts evaluated data from 178 countries.
According to a UZH statement, the frequency of various types of cancer increases the smaller the families are.
"And this effect is independent of income, degree of urbanization and age," explains Maciej Henneberg, academic guest at UZH and last author of the study.
Size of the entire household is important
The researchers led by Prof. Frank Rühli have now found that not only the size of the nuclear family - parents and children - but also the size of the household, including the members of the extended family, has a protective effect against cancer.
For example, family size, measured by the number of children a mother gives birth to during her life and household size, correlates negatively with the frequency of all cancers. This is independent of the age of the people.
The larger the family size, the less common are certain types of cancer such as brain cancer, bladder, lung, stomach, skin, breast, colon, ovarian and uterine cancer. The protective effect of family size is stronger for men than women.
It was previously known that cancers in women such as breast or ovarian cancer depend on the number of pregnancies.
The more pregnancies a woman has, the lower the risk of developing ovarian or breast cancer. What is surprising in the current study is that family size protects men even better than women.
Protective family life
It is astonishing that the risk of cancer in men depends on the fertility of their partners and the size of their household, but according to the researchers it can be explained.
In this way, family life, even if it can be stressful in some respects, creates a special emotional environment, which can have a positive effect on general resistance to diseases and also cancer.
As the Swiss university announced, people have been adapting to life in classic families with parents and children for around four million years.
According to the scientists, parenting through father and mother is one of the first specific human characteristics that has developed.
Now it shows that family members who support each other in a healthy lifestyle also protect against cancer. (ad)