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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia Southern: Study Looks at Pet Ownership and Risk of Dying from Cancer

In contrast to the increasing popularity of pets, research on the health effects of pet ownership, especially on the risk of cancer, is minimal and inconclusive. Although benefits of owning pets has been well documented, detrimental effects on various health outcomes were also reported. The inconsistency of previous studies may be partially explained by the limitations of previous studies, mostly with case-control designs.

To address these limitations, Georgia Southern longitudinally examined the relationship between pet ownership and risk of dying from cancer in a nationally representative cohort of 13,725 adults who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994. The vital status and causes of death were followed through 31 Dec. 2010. Women who owned pets (any type) presented one-year shorter survival time (15.88 years) than non-pet owner (16.83 years). A larger difference of survival time was particularly seen in bird owners (13.01 years) compared to non-bird owners (16.82 years). After adjusting for potential confounders, the risk of dying from cancer associated with any type of pets was 1.08 (95 percent CI = 0.77–1.50) for men and 1.40 (1.01–1.93) for women. The association in women was presumably driven by owning birds [2.41 (1.34–4.31)] or cats [1.48 (0.97–2.24)]. Keeping birds and cats in the household was associated with an increased risk of dying from cancer, especially in women. The researchers urge more efforts to explore the preventive strategies to mitigate the potentially detrimental effects of having a pet within households.

Pet ownership and risk of dying from cancer: observation from a nationally representative cohort” was recently published in Int. Journal of Enviro. Health Research.