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The Effects of Stress Include Faster Cancer Growth and Metastasis

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Whether sitting in heavy traffic or dealing with long-term financial woes, people are exposed to stress on a regular basis. The causes of stress are many, but all stress falls into one of two categories. The short-lived type of stress we might feel in traffic is known as acute stress, and this type usually wanes when the situation changes. The type of stress we feel when dealing with frequent financial trouble is known as chronic stress because it lasts for weeks, months, even years and has no clear end in sight. While acute stress presents little cause for concern, chronic stress can damage the health in many ways including encouraging the growth and spread of cancer.

A few simple practices can help counter the harmful effects of stress on health.

Research into the Effects of Stress on Cancer Growth and Metastasis

Isolation or confinement is a condition that creates stress in mice.  Research on mice with cancerous tumors found that tumors were more likely to metastasize (spread) when mice were isolated.  Another study showed that tumors transplanted into the mammary pads of mice metastasized much more quickly if mice were under constant stress than if mice were not under stress.  While scientists continue to research whether stress causes cancer directly, there's no doubt that it helps certain types of cancer grow and spread.  

How Stress Encourages the Growth and Spread of Cancer

Lorenzo Cohen, a professor of General Oncology and Behavioral Science explains that stress makes the body "more hospitable to cancer."  The release of hormones triggered by chronic stress hinders anoikis, a process in the body that destroys diseased cells and keeps them from spreading.  There is also some evidence to suggest that stress triggers the release of growth hormones that can boost blood supply to cancerous tumors.

Related:  Try Controlled Breathing for Difficulty Relaxing

While it is important for all people to try to counteract the effects of stress, it is essential for people with cancer.  Here are a few ways to keep stress at bay:

Try therapeutic strategies. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help reduce stress by discovering its sources and offering management tools for accompanying worry and anxiety.

Practice activities that encourage mindfulness.  Whether you enjoy painting or yoga, activities that keep the mind focused on something other than stress can provide temporary relief.

Get plenty of sleep.  A good night's sleep helps improve mood, memory and the ability to think clearly.  Proper sleep also helps boost the immune system, and a healthy body is the best defense against stress.

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