Impact of gender on the association between marital status and head and neck cancer outcomes

Matthew C Simpson, Sai D Challapalli, Lauren M Cass, Zisansha S Zahirsha, Eric Adjei Boakye, Sean T Massa, Nosayaba Osazuwa-Peters
Oral Oncology 2019, 89: 48-55

OBJECTIVES: To determine whether the impact of marital status on head and neck cancer (HNC) outcomes vary by gender.

METHODS: The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results 18 database from 2007 to 2014 was queried for eligible cases of HNC (n = 71,799). An interaction term (gender*marital status) was tested for each outcome of interest (cancer-specific survival, stage of presentation, adequate treatment), and when significant (p < 0.05), the model was stratified by gender. A competing risks proportional hazards (subdistribution [sd]) model estimated the interaction effect on cancer-specific survival. Logistic regression estimated effect on stage of presentation and treatment type.

RESULTS: There was significant gender*marital status interaction for cancer-specific survival and stage of presentation. While married/partnered patients had the highest survival among both genders, males benefitted more: widowed (male sdHR = 1.41, 95% CI 1.31, 1.52; female sdHR = 1.15, 95% CI 1.06, 1.26), divorced/separated (males: sdHR = 1.39, 95% CI 1.32, 1.46; females: sdHR = 1.17, 95% CI 1.06, 1.28), or never married (males: sdHR = 1.42, 95% CI 1.36, 1.49; females: sdHR = 1.15, 95% CI 1.05, 1.26). When stratified by oropharyngeal cancer vs. non-oropharyngeal HNC, unmarried males had 50-60% increased hazard of death, while no difference was found for females. Unmarried males also had greater odds of presenting with late-stage disease compared with females. No gender*marital status interaction was observed for adequate treatment, although married/partnered survivors had greater odds of receiving adequate treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: While there are survival benefits for married patients with HNC, married/partnered males, especially those with oropharyngeal cancer, may benefit more than females.

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