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In Sickness and in Health?

Two types of cancer seem to make divorce more likely.

A new study out of Norway suggests that cancer doesn't make divorce more likely–unless the diagnosis is for testicular or cervical cancer. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune:

In research presented Thursday at a meeting of the European Cancer Organization, Norwegian experts found cancer patients were no more likely to get divorced than people without cancer, except for those with cervical and testicular cancer. The divorce rate actually dropped slightly in the years following diagnosis for most cancers, they said.

But the study showed women with cervical cancer had a 40 percent higher chance of getting divorced than other women. Men with testicular cancer were 20 percent more likely to get divorced than similar men without cancer. Both types of cancer are curable and are diagnosed at younger ages than other cancers.

A number of reasons are suggested: (1) the marriages are younger and not as established; (2) the diagnoses can interfere with couples' sexual lives, which further undercuts their emotional bonding; and (in the case of cervical cancer) such diagnoses may lead to suspicions of infidelity.

The good news is (1) cancer is not usually a marriage-killer, and (2) the divorce risk for these two forms of cancer seems to decline with age:

Women with cervical cancer had nearly a 70 percent greater risk of divorce at the age of 20, a level that fell to 19 percent at 60. For testicular cancer, the divorce risk was 34 percent at 20 and 16 percent at 60, it said.

Something for Christians to keep in mind when cancer comes to church. The attack comes not just against our bodies, but against our marriages. Ministry to families facing cancer should thus be holistic, encompassing body and soul.

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