Purpose: Satisfaction with social resources, or ‘‘social well-being,’’ relates to better adaptation and longer survival after breast cancer diagnosis. Biobehavioral mechanisms linking social well-being (SWB) to mental and physical health may involve inflammatory signaling. We tested whether reports of greater SWB were associated with lower levels of pro-inflammatory and pro-metastatic leukocyte gene expression after surgery for non-metastatic breast cancer.
Methods: Women (N = 50) diagnosed with non-metastatic (0–III) breast cancer were enrolled 2–8 weeks after surgery. SWB was assessed with the social/family well-being subscale of the FACT-B. Leukocyte gene expression for specific pro-inflammatory (cytokines, chemokines, and COX-2) and pro-metastatic genes (e.g., MMP9) was derived from microarray analysis.
Results: Multiple regression analyses controlling for age, stage of disease, days since surgery, education, and body mass index (BMI) found higher levels of SWB related to less leukocyte pro-inflammatory and pro-metastatic gene expression (p < 0.05). Emotional well-being, physical well-being, and functional well-being did not relate to leukocyte gene expression (p [ 0.05). Greater SWB remained significantly associated with less leukocyte pro- inflammatory and pro-metastatic gene expression after controlling for depressive symptoms.
Conclusions: Results have implications for understanding mechanisms linking social resources to health-relevant biological processes in breast cancer patients undergoing primary treatment.