Stress and Cancer: Does Stress Cause Cancer?

Are stress and cancer related?

Cancer affects one third of Americans and to date there is no cure for cancer other than early detection and prevention.

As lifestyles get more stressful the effects of stress on cancer are becoming more important.

Does stress cause cancer?

Scientists know that stress and the immune system are related.

The immune system is the body's defense system against bacteria and disease (including cancer) and stress compromises this.

But it is not yet known whether there is a direct link between stress and cancer.

In the last 30 years of scientific study on the link between stress and cancer has yielded conflicting results.

This is because stress and cancer are difficult to study.

For example, the older you get the more stressful events you are likely to have experienced.

But getting older is also one of the biggest risk factors for getting cancer.

While small amounts of stress can be motivating and beneficial, too much stress for too long can be unhealthy.

Chronic stress increases the risk of a number of diseases. Some of these include

Some of these unhealthy ways of dealing with stress, such as smoking more or overeating increase your risk of cancer.

Because stress increases the risk of other unhealthy behaviour a direct cause-and-effect relationship between cancer and stress in the last 30 years of research has yielded conflicting results.

There are a number of ways that cancer and stress may be linked.

Some of the research has suggested that the weakening of the immune system increases the incidence of cancerous growth e.g. Kaposi sarcoma and some lymphomas.

Other research has suggested that the neuroendocrine response (release of stress hormones into the blood) alter the cell's protection mechanisms that regulate DNA repair and cell growth.

Many researchers are combining guided imagery with self hypnosis to deal with cancer and other terminal illnesses.

Also people are using various meditation techniques as complementary healing methods that appear to work well with traditional medicine.

Greer et al (1990) in the medical journal Lancet argued that having a fighting spirit was the key to surviving cacer.

In a 15 year follow up of breast cancer those with a fight spirit were twice as likely to survive compared to those who had a personality of helplessness/hopelessness.

This suggests that a positive mental attitude towards cancer and stress is an effective way to maintain your quality of life.

But it must be pointed out that some of this research is difficult to isolate the cause-and-effect of the healing process of these relaxation techniques, and some studies have not shown promising results in the treatment of cancer.

so please see your local health professional before using these techniques as part of the complementary approach with traditional medicine.

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