Can stress cause breast cancer?

Dr. Beth Goldman

| 2 min read

stressed woman
We know stress can have a big impact on the body’s immune system, but can it cause breast cancer? While there isn’t a direct link between stress and cancer, how you deal with it has a direct impact. If your coping mechanisms include smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, for example, you’re putting yourself at greater risk of developing breast cancer.
Stress can also hinder your body from fighting cancer as well as it should. There is slight evidence that shows people who are under a significant amount of stress and also have cancer are more likely to develop metastasis. Metastasis is the spread of cancer that results from secondary malignant growths located away from the primary cancer site.
A team of researchers from University of Miami’s Center for Psycho-Oncology Research found that a stress management program can improve breast cancer outcomes by altering tumor-promoting processes to facilitate better recovery during treatment.
“You essentially have this time frame in a woman’s life where she is getting diagnosed with breast cancer, followed by surgery, then chemotherapy or radiation, and it’s very stressful,” said Michael H. Antoni, leader of the study. “This can be an emotionally and physically exhausting period offering little opportunity for recovery. If stress affects the immune system in a negative way, then their recovery could be slowed down, and those patients taking longer to recover may be at risk for poorer health outcomes. Conversely, if stress management intervention can reduce the impact of stress on the immune system, then recovery may be hastened.”
Photo Credit: UrbaneWomenMag

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