Study by Harvard University looked at 750,000 patients. Found married sufferers had 20 per cent better chance of surviving. Benefit for breast and colon cancer patients outweighed benefit of chemo. Marriage has many benefits when it comes to raising children, buying a house, and having a hand to hold during life's toughest times. But new research suggests that, for some cancer patients, having a husband or wife could be more beneficial than chemotherapy. New research from Harvard University shows that, for 10 common kinds of cancer, being married means patients are 20 per cent less likely to die from the disease. Academics found that people who were married were more likely to get diagnosed early, before tumours could spread, and more likely to have life-saving surgery. Amazingly in some forms of cancer, including breast and colon, the benefits of being married outweighed the stated benefit of chemotherapy. The study, of 750,000 people including those with lung and prostate cancer, also found that the effect was larger in men than in women. Unmarried cancer patients - including those who were widowed - were 17 per cent more likely to have metastatic cancer, which spreads beyond its original site and were 53 per cent less likely to receive the appropriate therapy. Dr Ayal Aizer, chief resident of the Harvard Radiation Oncology Programme, said: 'Our data suggests that marriage can have a significant health impact for patients with cancer, and this was consistent among every cancer that we reviewed. 'We suspect that social support from spouses is what's driving the striking improvement in survival. 'Spouses often accompany patients on their visits and make sure they understand the recommendations and complete all their treatments.' However, the finding shouldn't be seen as a downer for singletons as Dr. Paul Nguyen, the study's senior author, said that the findings just showed the importance of strong social support, which could also be provided by family or close friends. He said: 'We don't just see our study as an affirmation of marriage. 'Rather it should send a message to anyone who has a friend or a loved one with cancer, by being there for that person and helping them navigate their appointments and make it through all their treatments, you can make a real difference to that person's outcome. 'As oncologists, we need to be aware of our patients' available social supports and encourage them to seek and accept support from friends and family during this potentially difficult time.' While this isn't the first study to identify a positive link between cancer survival rates and marriage, it is the first to link to the 10 most common cancers. However researchers were unable to say exactly why marriage is so beneficial. One possibility is that patients with a spouse are more likely to undergo health screening which would diagnose cancer at an earlier stage. Married people are then more likely to follow through with treatments and appointments, while widowed or single people may struggle to keep up with tough medical routines. Dr. Victor Vogel, the director of breast medical oncology and research at Geisenger Health System, agrees, calling the study 'very proactive.' He added: 'We need to help our patients find social support throughout their illness. 'If there isn’t a spouse to do that then we have to find other systems and networks to make that happen.'