The risk of divorce increases if one partner suffers from testicular or cervical cancer, but other types have no effect on whether a couple stays together, Norwegian researchers said on Thursday.
With most forms of cancer, the healthy spouse was likely to support his or her partner through the illness, according to the study presented at the European Cancer Conference in Barcelona.
The research compared divorce rates of 215,000 cancer survivors with those among couples free of cancer over a 17-year period.
However, testicular and cervical cancer seemed to lead to a higher chance of marriages breaking up, the study found.
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.
The reason could be because both diseases affect intimacy and result in decreased sexual activity, said Astri Syse of the Norwegian Cancer Registry, who led the study.
The virus that caused cervical cancer was often transmitted by sexual contact and could raise suspicions of infidelity. Age was another possible factor, because both cancers tended to hit people when they were younger and had not yet forged strong bonds, Syse said.
"Sexual problems or a weakening of the emotional rewards from the union are particularly devastating early in a relationship and ... an increased care load is most difficult to accept at an age when illness is most unexpected," she said.
The study found divorce was least likely when the cancer had spread or for types of cancer that had a poor prognosis.
This could be because leaving a sick spouse was seen as socially unacceptable or because an expected death would obviate the need for a divorce, Syse said.