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Does Stress Cause Breast Cancer

How Can Psychological Treatment Help Women Adjust

Is Breast Cancer Linked to Stress?

Licensed psychologists and other mental health professionals with experience in breast cancer treatment can help a great deal. Their primary goal is to help women learn how to cope with the physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes associated with cancer as well as with medical treatments that can be painful and traumatic.

For some women, the focus may be on how to explain their illness to their children or how to deal with a partners response. For others, it may be on how to choose the right hospital or medical treatment. For still others, it may be on how to control stress, anxiety, or depression.

Breast cancer patients themselves arent the only ones who can benefit from psychological treatment. Partners can also be suffering. In one study, for example, men whose partners were diagnosed with breast cancer were nearly 40% more likely than other men to be hospitalized for severe depression and other mood disorders.3

Psychologists can help spouses manage the challenge of offering both emotional and practical support while dealing with their own feelings. Children, parents, and friends involved in caretaking can also benefit from psychological interventions.

How Stress Causes Cancer At The Cellular Level

In the vast majority of those with cancer, there exists both a combination of psychological as well as physiological stresses that have contributed to the formation of cancer within the body.;There are a number of factors that create stress on the bodys cells.

Below I list the six separate phases showing how stress develops into cancer. This is how cancer forms within the body at the cellular level over an 18-24 month period.

Classical Corticosteroids And Catecholamines

Corticosteroids include glucocorticoids and corticosterones. Elevated glucocorticoid levels increase the activity of the negative regulator murine double minute 2 through induction of the serum-and-glucocorticoid-regulated kinase and mediate the inhibition of p53 . P53 can initiate DNA repair, cell cycle arrest, aging, and apoptosis, which are related to the body’s ability to inhibit tumor formation and respond to various types of cancer treatment . Therefore, the loss or impairment of the p53 function mediated by corticosteroids can considerably promote tumorigenesis. ObradoviÄ et al. found that the increase in glucocorticoids during breast cancer progression was related to a lower survival rate. Increased hormone levels could lead to the activation of glucocorticoid receptors that were involved in the activation of multiple processes in metastasis and the up-regulation of kinase orphan receptor 1 at distant metastatic sites. Inhibition of ROR1 expression can reduce metastasis and prolong the survival rates of breast cancer patients.

Figure 2. Signaling pathways activated by catecholamines. Stress-induced catecholamines activate the cAMP-PKA signaling pathway through β2 adrenergic receptors, thereby causing a series of downstream reactions. Src phosphorylation, DNA damage, p53 degradation, upregulation of VEGF and MMPs, and enhanced stem-like traits are key factors of tumorigenesis.

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Role Of Stress Signaling Pathways In The Mammary Gland

The mammary gland begins to form early during embryogenesis and continues to develop in defined stages that are correlated with sexual development and reproduction . Laboratory studies have demonstrated that cortisol plays a physiological role in the mammary gland mainly in the latter part of pregnancy and during lactation . At that stage, placental lactogens stimulate DNA synthesis in the mammary cells, and cortisol induces the formation of the rough endoplasmic reticulum, where milk proteins will be synthesized . Prolactin release upon birth causes lobular differentiation, and the secretion of early milk proteins such as -casein. Cortisol, on the other hand, predominantly regulates the expression of late milk proteins, although it has also been shown to play an important role in the regulation of -casein expression .

Figure 1

How Breast Cancer Forms And Multiplies

Psychological Effects of a Breast Cancer Diagnosis ...

Cancer cells are triggered when a mutation in normal cells occur. This can happen due to well-known problematic lifestyle factors like living on junk food, chronic sunburn and cigarette smoking, but hormones can also play a big role. Once cancer cells are born they grow and divide to make more cancer cells, which form a tumor that may contain millions of cancer cells.

Cancers need a blood supply to provide them the oxygen, nutrients and hormones like estrogen, which help them grow and multiply. But as they get bigger they are often further away from the blood vessels so they need to set up their own supply. They do this by sending out signals that tell your body to grow new blood vessels like capillaries. This process is called angiogenesis. And it is ongoing, so once it occurs the cancer keeps getting bigger and then may start to spread to organs like your liver . Thats why scientists are working on cancer vaccines and drugs to try to halt the process of angiogenesis.

Breast cancer is often caused by cancer cells growing in the lobules, where milk is produced or the ducts, where the milk travels to the nipple. Breast cancer cells may then spread to surrounding breast tissue, then move to the lymph nodes under the arms and migrate to other parts of the body.

Recommended Reading: What Is The Prognosis For Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Why All The Worry

Stress is an occupational hazard of living in the 21st Century. At low levels, we need it to give us the impetus to get out of bed in the mornings and put our best into whatever were doing. Our bodies react to stress by producing adrenaline. This fight or flight hormone travels through the blood to every nook and cranny of the body, preparing us for battle with the tribe from over the mountain, or flight from that sabre-toothed tiger.

Adrenaline raises your heart and breathing rates, pumping oxygen more effectively to your muscles. It diverts blood away from your gut to your brain and other vital organs. This ability to run faster and hit harder stood us in good stead when a life-threatening predator lurked around every corner. But all too often today it does more harm than good.

When stress levels rise too high or too long, we can become paralysed by anxiety. Its hard to see the wood for the trees, and making the smallest decision requires Herculean effort.

If everything makes you anxious to the extent that it interferes with your ability to function, you may be suffering from generalised anxiety disorder . 1 in 30-50 people are affected, with women suffering more often than men.

Teasing out GAD from normal anxiety can be difficult, but features include:

Natural Ways To Increase Nk Cells

In addition to taking steps to create a positive mindset and relationships, here are some other natural ways to increase NK cells and support a healthy immune response:

  • Studies show massage causes an increase in levels of Natural Killer cells.
  • Eating blueberries regularly has been shown to increase levels.
  • Aged garlic supplements have been shown to dramatically increase the number of and activity of NK cells.
  • Probiotics enhance NK cell activity and functionality.¹
  • Sleep is an important modulator of immune function. Getting 8 hours of sleep per night is crucial for a healthy immune system.¹¹
  • Vitamin C has been shown to have cancer fighting properties, particularly in chronically stressed breast cancer patients.¹²
  • Meditation improves NK cell production.¹³
  • Recommended Reading: When Can Breast Cancer Occur

    How Stress Affects Cancer

    Chronic stress activates part of your nervous system called your sympathetic nervous system, and it has been shown to contribute to malignancy.²

    Heres why: In addition to epinephrine, cortisol is another one of our stress hormones. It is also produced in our adrenal glands, with the highest levels seen in the morning, giving us energy for the day.;

    Cortisol levels drop at bedtime in order to allow us to fall asleep and recoup. This is called a normal diurnal pattern. Chronic stress contributes to adrenal dysfunction and causes abnormalities in this diurnal pattern.

    Rather than experiencing natural peaks and valleys in your stress hormone levels, chronic stress means your cortisol remains elevated throughout the day and night. Over time, chronic stress will lead to loss of the normal highs and lows of cortisol levels. Beyond the obvious issues with sleep and appetite, there are some serious consequences.

    Patients with a flatter cortisol pattern have been found to have fewer Natural Killer immune system cells.³;These NK cells spontaneously kill abnormal cells in their vicinity, including tumor cells and infected cells.

    Study Design And Control For Confounding

    Does Stress Cause Cancer?

    The influence of study design and control for confounding on results is quantitatively demonstrated by the differences in ORs observed in the analysis by Duijts and colleagues for retrospective studies and prospective studies and for studies accounting for confounding versus those that do not . Study design and confounding probably contributed to the difference in results between the two meta-analyses presented. At the time of the earlier analysis, fewer prospective studies had been published. In addition, the majority of earlier research does not account for the effect of confounding factors. Several factors – such as diet, exercise, and hormone exposure – are associated with both the exposure and the outcome of interest, and therefore need to be considered in this context as potential confounders .

    Another important variable to take into account is the effect of socioeconomic status on the association of stress with breast cancer risk. At this point in time, it is unclear whether stress acts as a mediating factor between socio-economic status and breast cancer, or whether socio-economic status and stress are independently correlated with breast cancer risk. Evidence has been presented for both possibilities . The analysis of stress-breast cancer associations should therefore be carried out in both the presence of and the absence of socioeconomic status in order to rule out a confounding effect.

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    The Links Between Stress And Cancer

    We know that stress is not good for us, especially the day-in, day-out survival-type stress that persists for weeks, months, and years, which is also known as chronic psychological stress. But can it really have that much of an impact on us? Enough of an impact to increase our risk for very specific illnesses and even cancers? The answer appears to be yes for some illnesses, but there isn’t always a clear answer when it comes to cancer and its development.

    Crf And Thyroid Hormone

    CRF is widely present in the central nervous system, that has been detected in breast cancer tissues and cell lines, and affects breast cancer cell proliferation and invasion in an autocrine or paracrine manner . CRF can induce the phosphorylation of the focal adhesion kinase , induce Cox1 to produce prostaglandins, directly promote actin recombination and cell migration, and play a role in the TGFβ/SMAD2 and the Wnt-β-catenin signaling. The antagonist of CRF, antalarmin, inhibits neovascularization in 4T1 breast cancer cell lines in vivo .

    Thyroid hormone is secreted by the thyroid gland, which is closely related to the body’s metabolism, growth, and development, and is regulated by the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis. When people are emotional, their emotions stimulate the hypothalamus to release thyrotropin-releasing hormones and regulate the secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormones. This further affects the thyroid gland, and causes its gland cells to secrete a large amount of thyroid hormone. Frick et al. found that under chronic stress, thyroid hormone levels and T cell lymphoid tissue hyperplasia response were reduced in animals and lymphoma growth was altered. The use of thyroxine replacement therapy can reverse the above process. Therefore, thyroid hormone may be a critical neuroendocrine regulator of tumor evolution, most likely through the regulation of T cell-mediated immunity.

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    As Explained By Dr Paul Rosch

    There is little doubt that having cancer can be very stressful, but can stress cause cancer, or accelerate its progress?

    My interest in stress and cancer began around 55 years ago, when I had a Fellowship at Hans Selyes Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery at the University of Montreal. His magnum opus Stress had just been published in 1950, expanding on his theory of the General Adaptation Syndrome and its resultant Diseases of Adaptation. One of the hallmarks of his Alarm Reaction, the first phase of this syndrome, was marked dissolution of lymphoid tissue and atrophy of the thymus gland. However, the significance of this was not clear with respect to its implications for altered immune system function that might predispose to malignancy.

    During dinner at his home one evening, Selye indicated that he had been intrigued with the possible relationship between stress and cancer. He cited various anecdotal reports of the onset of malignancy following emotional stress. He was fascinated by the phenomenon of spontaneous remission, which he thought was due to a strong faith that buffered the harmful effects of stress, and we discussed various aspects of this with respect to its relevance to the General Adaptation Syndrome. I suggested to him that cancer might possibly represent another Disease of Adaptation, or a response to stress that had gone awry, but our conversation soon turned to more pressing priorities.

    D Moment Of Exposure/time Period Investigated

    Top 5 Causes of Breast Cancer on Career Women

    Taking into account the allostatic theory of McEwen and the role of early stress as a risk factor of the allostatic load, as well as the doubling time of the tumor volume, which varies between 88 days and 2 years , for a psychological factor to be incriminated in oncogenesis, the stress must have acted a long time before diagnosis.

    The dissonance between studies may be partially due to the time period taken into evaluation, a period that can be outside the relevant biological period. If we analyze the negative studies, we observe that 8 of them investigated periods of less than 5 years. Nevertheless, the longest prospective follow-up considered, belong also to negative studies .

    Another topic of discussion regards the impact of early stress. There are 4 studies that investigated and confirmed that stress in childhood and adolescence coinciding with the moment of mammary development – have a negative influence on breast cancer development later in life.

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    Breast Cancer: How Your Mind Can Help Your Body

    Emotional turmoil in response to a diagnosis of breast cancer can affect a persons physical health as well as psychological well-being.

    Breast cancer: How your mind can help your body.

    According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 230,000 women in the United States learn that they have breast cancer each year.1 Because many of them have no family history of breast cancer or other known risk factors, the diagnosis often comes as a devastating surprise. The emotional turmoil that results can affect womens physical health as well as their psychological well-being.

    This question and answer fact sheet explains how psychological treatment can help these women harness the healing powers of their own minds.

    You Have More Power Than You Have Been Told

    You have more power over your risk of breast cancer than you think. There are many steps you can take to protect yourself. Each one of them has other positive domino effects for your hormonal balance and overall health:

    1. Help with Estrogen Metabolism

    If theres one trio of supplements I recommend for preventing breast cancer and promoting overall hormone health, its the combination of DIM, sulforaphane, and calcium d-glucarate. Heres a breakdown of these major estrogen metabolizers.

    DIM: Also known as diindolylmethane, DIM is a compound generated when the body breaks down cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. It is best known as a nutrient that supports healthy estrogen metabolism as well as the prevention of hormone-related cancers by its anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic effects. It supports:

    • Phase 1 liver detoxification
    • The breakdown of estrogen into clean estrogens, not the antagonistic dirty ones
    • A healthy balance of testosterone and estrogen by acting as an aromatase inhibitor, blocking some testosterone from converting to estrogen
    • The cells from the damaging effects of oxidation

    I personally use and recommend our DIM. The recommended dose is 100 mg to 200 mg per day.

    I personally use and recommend our Brocco Power . The recommended dosage is 500 mg a day.

    I personally use and recommend our Calcium-D-Glucarate. Recommended dosage of calcium d-glucarate ranges from 150 mg to 300 mg per day, taken with meals.

    For Breast Protection:

    Recommended Reading: What Blood Test Can Detect Breast Cancer

    Can Psychological Stress Cause Cancer

    Although stress can cause a number of physical health problems, the evidence that it can cause cancer is weak. Some studies have indicated a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer, but others have not.

    Apparent links between psychological stress and cancer could arise in several ways. For example, people under stress may develop certain behaviors, such as smoking, overeating, or drinking alcohol, which increase a persons risk for cancer. Or someone who has a relative with cancer may have a higher risk for cancer because of a shared inherited risk factor, not because of the stress induced by the family members diagnosis.

    Stress And Immune Detection Of Transformed Cells

    Does Caffeine Cause Breast Cancer?

    Stress may also contribute to mammary tumor development by affecting immune system function and the elimination of transformed mammary cells. The effect of stress signaling on immunity has been extensively studied and was recently reviewed by Webster Marketon and Glaser . With respect to cancer development, cortisol release in response to psychological stress has been suggested to produce a shift in the levels of Th1 and Th2 cytokines towards a Th2 response, a decline in natural killer cell activity, and a decrease in IFN production, all of which would affect the ability of the immune system to detect and respond to the presence of tumor cells . Holden and colleagues have also suggested a causal immunological model in which a stress-related increase in TNF results in decreased activity of tyrosine phosphatase and in a consequently diminished expression of the class-I MHC antigen on the surface of malignant cells, allowing transformed cells to escape detection by the immune system .

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