The idea of a "marriage advantage" to health and happiness has existed for well over 150 years, and still appears to persist when it comes to cancer.

For a pair of studies published Monday in the journal Cancer, researchers Scarlett Lin Gomez of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and María Elena Martínez of the University of California-San Diego looked at records from about 800,000 American adults diagnosed in 2000 to 2009 with invasive cancer.

They sliced the data by income, race, insurance status, and other factors and found that unmarried cancer patients are suffering from higher death rates than their married counterparts. And men who were unmarried had a death rate that was 27 percent higher than those who were married. For unmarried women it was 19 percent higher. Gomez pointed to "social support as a key driver."

But Bernard Rachet from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine pointed out that the paper does not address such issues as whether patients married or divorced after their diagnosis, had relationships similar to marriage, or whether they also had other co-existing conditions and diseases that may explain the difference in death rates.

- Washington Post