Researchers believe interacting with other people who are also having treatment reduces stress levels, leading to better survival prospects

Socialising with others who also have cancer, could potentially improve survival prospects, according to new research.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy who socialise with other sufferers have a 68% risk of dying within five years, scientists from the National Human Genome Research Institute have found.

This is compared to a 69.5% risk if patients are isolated from other sufferers during their treatment, the research adds.

Lead author Jeff Lienert, said: “A two percent difference in survival might not sound like a lot, but it’s pretty substantial. If you saw 5,000 patients in nine years, that two percent improvement would affect 100 people.”

Researchers from the National Human Genome Research Institute and the University of Oxford analysed electronic medical records from 4,691 cancer patients collected between 2000 and 2009 from two major NHS hospitals.

Study participants were all undergoing chemotherapy and had an average age of 59.8.

The researchers investigated the total time patients spent with others cancer sufferers who were also undergoing chemotherapy.

The researchers did not specifically investigate how interacting with other cancer sufferers aids patient survival, however, they speculate it may be due to reduced stress.

Liener said: “When you’re stressed, stress hormones such as adrenaline are released, resulting in a fight or flight response.

“If you are then unable to fight or fly, such as in chemotherapy, these hormones can build up.”

The researchers expect visits from non-cancer sufferers has a similar, or greater, effect on patient survival.

Liener added: “Positive social support during the exact moments of greatest stress is crucial.

“If you have a friend with cancer, keeping him or her company during chemotherapy probably will help reduce their stress.

“The impact is likely to be as effective, and possibly more effective, than cancer patients interacting with other cancer patients.”