Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stress Increases Breast Cancer Risk in Many Ways

Numerous studies have suggested that there is a link between stress and breast cancer.  For example, high levels of stress have been reported to increase breast cancer metastasis and increase breast cancer risk.  In contrast,  decreasing stress has been reported to increase survival after breast cancer recurrence.   

The full picture of how stress effects breast cancer has been difficult to piece together.  However, a new review paper on stress and breast cancer was recently published and is free to download.  A brief summary of some of the more interesting and important points regarding the relationship between stress and breast cancer are outlined below.

Types of Stress
  • Studies on long-term stress like caregiving stress, work-related stress, or everyday stress are inconsistent and suggest that there is only a weak to modest effect of chronic stress on breast cancer risk.
  • Stress related to life events (loss of a significant other, death of a friend or relative, etc) appears to show a more consistent and stronger link to increased breast cancer risk. 
Timing of Stress
  • Studies have reported that stress-inducing life events that occur early in life are more strongly linked to increased breast cancer risk.
  • This appears to be particularly true for stressful life events that take place during our childhood and teenage years.
Biology of Stress & Breast Cancer
  • One of the main reasons that exposure to stress increases breast cancer risk is that the main stress hormone, cortisol, has important and necessary functions in the development of breast tissues at various life stages.
  • Prolonged exposure to stress leads to prolonged exposure of breast tissues to cortisol, which can results in the over-activation of various biological processes at inappropriate times.
  • This over-exposure to cortisol appears to lead to a number of actions such as blocking the removal of genetically damaged cells, stimulating invasiveness, suppressing the ability of the immune system to detect tumor cells, and reducing the ability of DNA repair.
It is clear from this review paper that stress plays a very important role in breast cancer risk, development, and progression.  The timing of stress-inducing events and the types of stress all appear to play role in the level of breast cancer risk, though it appears that a person's own susceptibility to stress modulates this risk.  Based on this comprehensive overview, finding ways to reduce stress, particularly during stressful events in our lives, is an important part of our fight against breast cancer.

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

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