Stress and Cancer – The American Institute of Stress
Currently, there is no evidence that stress is a direct cause of cancer. But evidence is accumulating that there is some link between stress and developing certain. Stress does not cause cancer, but behaviours related to stress such as found no link between stress and increased risk of bowel, lung, breast. During dinner at his home one evening, Selye indicated that he had been intrigued with the possible relationship between stress and cancer.
The illustration cited at that time was the tremendous variation in the development of different horns by some twenty-three species of African Antelopes. Some horns are obviously too small to be effective, such as those of the duiker, while others are prohibitively unwieldy, as in the kudu.
As one examines this tremendous variation, the marked alterations in anatomical configuration and functional effect do not appear to serve any useful or rational adaptive purpose, and are more of a detriment. As one descends the phylogenetic scale, the incidence of cancer progressively decreases, and it is absent in primitive forms of life.
Conversely, the ability of the organism to regenerate injured or lost tissues increases proportionately. Simpler organisms, including some invertebrates, are able to sever parts of their anatomy when they are injured. Obviously, this capability would have survival value only if the animal possessed an equally remarkable ability to regenerate the cast off portion from available cell remnants. Thus, a starfish can grow a new appendage, and the salamander or newt can grow a new tail or leg if it is severed.
Humans, however, do not have such reparative or regenerative powers, except perhaps for the liver and spleen which are similar in nature to organs found in lower forms of life. I believe that some cancers may represent a vestigial remnant of this primitive, purposeful, regenerative potential. When we suffer a loss or injury, an attempt to respond with similar purposeful replacement activities is triggered. Unfortunately, this new growth, or neoplasia, may prove to be harmful rather than functional.
Experiments with chemicals known to cause cancer when applied to the skin or injected into laboratory animals and humans support this hypothesis. When these same carcinogens are injected into the leg of a salamander, it does not result in cancer, but surprisingly causes the growth of a new accessory limb at that site.
If injected into the lens of the eye, the salamander will regenerate a new lens.
Thus, the identical carcinogenic stimulus can produce either purposeful regeneration, or a fatal malignancy, depending upon the evolutionary development of the organism.
The emotional distress associated with an anticipated traumatic incident is often greater than that encountered as a result of the physical event itself. Therefore, the leap from physical to emotional loss should not be troublesome.
How stress affects cancer risk
The ability to regenerate lost or injured tissue in lower forms of life obviously involves something more than a simple local response. The message that tissue has been damaged or lost must be relayed to higher centers in the central nervous system which then initiate appropriate and coordinated reparative responses. The same signals may be sent to activate endocrine, immune, and central nervous system mechanisms to continue to respond in some manner to repair the damage.
However, our attempts to stimulate replacement or purposeful new growth are futile. What may result instead, is new growth in the form of neoplasia which is malignant and beyond control. In the Holmes-Rahe Scalethe four most stressful life change events all involve loss of important emotional relationships, with death of a spouse and divorce heading the list. If stress can cause cancer, one would therefore expect that affected individuals would demonstrate significantly higher rates of malignancy.
Stress: A Cause of Cancer?
It has long been recognized that widowed and divorced individuals die at much higher rates for all the leading causes of death including cancer. Over the past two decades, a variety of studies have demonstrated that following loss of a spouse there is a prompt and impressive decline in immune system defenses, and possibly, this is aberrant adaptive response is a mechanism that may explain some stress related malignancies. There is also evidence that increased stresses associated with progressive civilization, contribute to cancer.
I do not refer here to such things as smoking, air pollution, asbestos, radiation hazards, or other carcinogenic concerns, but rather to psychosocial stresses that were evident long before these modern problems.
He noted that in Paris, the annual cancer mortality rate over an eleven year period was. While it was only. The renowned medical missionary, Dr. The celebrated anthropologist and Arctic explorer, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, in his book which was actually entitled, Cancer: Cancer was unknown, and these individuals seemed to preserve their youthful physique and appearance well into their sixties and seventies, and to enjoy unusual longevity. Both Stefansson and Schweitzer believed this had nothing to do with diet, but resulted entirely from the stresses associated with progressive civilization.
In an July, article in Cancer, Dr. William Howard Hay noted: One of the most persuasive arguments is to be found in Dr. Over the years, cancer research has become the domain of specialists in various fields.
Despite the outstanding contributions of scientists, we have been getting farther away from our goal, the curing of cancer. This specialized work, and the knowledge gained through the study of individual processes, has had the peculiar result of becoming an obstacle to the whole.
More than thirty years in the field of cancer research have convinced me that it is not to our advantage to continue along this road of detailed analysis. Our latest government figures report a puzzling increase in the incidence of breast cancer in middle-aged females. It has been well established that the younger a woman is when she has her first child or even becomes pregnant, the less likely she is to develop breast cancer. Pregnancy lowers prolactin, a pituitary hormone that stimulates breast tissue growth and promotes breast cancer in experimental animals.
As more and more women enter the work force, they tend to remain single, marry and decide not to have children, or do so only when they are much older. But then things go wrong: In the new study, researchers at Ohio State University show that cancer cells are able to switch on ATF3 in immune cells that have been summoned to tumor sites. The result is ATF3 then causes the immune cells to malfunction and allow cancer cells to escape from the tumor and spread to other parts of the body.
Senior author Tsonwin Hai, a professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry at Ohio, says: So really, the rest of the cells in the body help cancer cells to move, to set up shop at distant sites. And one of the unifying themes here is stress.
When they examined tumor samples from those patients they were stunned to find expression of ATF3 in certain immune cells was tied to poorer outcomes whereas ATF3 in cancer cells showed no such link. While a little stress is nothing to fret about, the kind of intense worry that lingers for weeks or months may make it hard for you to stay healthy.
Health experts are still sorting out whether stress actually causes cancer. Not all stress is equally harmful There are two different types of stress, and only one seems to be really bad for your health, says Anil K. Short-term or acute stress, like the type you might feel before giving a speech or fighting holiday shopping crowds, tends to subside as soon as the event passes. But long-term or chronic stress is more damaging. That type of stress springs from situations that last many weeks or months with no definite end point.
This type of no-end-in-sight stress can weaken your immune system, leaving you prone to diseases like cancer. It also ups your risk for digestive problems and depression. Stress hormones can inhibit a process called anoikis, which kills diseased cells and prevents them from spreading, Sood says.