Can stress cause cancer?

These are some excerpts from an article by Carly Weeks in the Globe and Mail paper today:
“Can stress cause cancer, or even hasten a patient’s death? It’s a daunting, emotionally charged question with no simple answers, but it represents a growing field of research that scientists hope could eventually lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatment.
The premise driving the theory is that stress has been found to weaken the body’s immune response and cause some physiological changes, such as the secretion of certain hormones, that could contribute to the development of cancer.
Traditionally, much of the study in this field has focused on the effects of stress on the immune system.
But now, attention is shifting to the relationship between stress and gene function, an area many scientists believe is the key to unravelling this mystery.”
… “led by Suzanne Conzen, associate professor of medicine in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research at the University of Chicago” , the researchers studied the stress levels of mice living in groups as they normally do, or alone which creates a stressful situation for them.
“The study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that an individual’s stress level may be linked to the progression of cancer. But the quest to understand why – and, perhaps more importantly, how those factors might be used to help prevent or treat cancer – is still in its infancy.”
“This is an area that has a long way to go in terms of understanding how these factors play out in humans,” said Caryn Lerman, a professor of psychiatry and scientific director of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.”
“Stress doesn’t give you cancer, but it is a risk factor like genetic differences, like environmental carcinogens,” said David Spiegel, associate chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. “There are a whole bunch of risk factors. Not everybody that smokes tobacco gets lung cancer.”

This is a comment about my personal experience which I posted after the article on the Globe and Mail website:
I’m convinced that stress increases the growth of cancer cells, so I’m very pleased to see research being done in this area. What this theory allows people to do is to manage their stress levels so they give the body a fighting chance to overcome cancer. If stress is using up much of the resources in the body, then the normal process which controls the growth of cancer is compromised, and the cancer takes over.
I learned about the link between stress and cancer from books and some health professionals when I was going through chemo in 1987.
At first I blamed myself for having cancer, which didn’t feel very good at all. Then after a course in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I had an Aha moment. I thought that if my high stress levels had fuelled my cancer to grow, I could possibly reduce the growth of cancer by lowering my stress level.
I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. By managing my stress, I hoped to live long enough to see my children grow up, and I’ve managed to be cancer free since 1987.
It’s a simple idea but not an easy one and required much work on my part to change my stress levels, as well as building in a healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep patterns.
I have to say that every day is a blessing and my appreciation of life is so much greater than before my cancer diagnosis when I took my health for granted.


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2 Responses to “Can stress cause cancer?”

  1. Barry Says:

    Fascinating discussion.

    I’m glad more research is being done on this.

    • lynnroodbol Says:

      Thanks very much for your comment Barry.
      So many people are stressed out these days which makes them sick and tired. I would like to help people manage their stress levels and stay healthy.

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