Stress Can Make Cancer Worse

cancer riskThe idea of living with cancer can be challenging enough but did you know that feeling stressed out or anxious can further aggravate cancer? In a recent medical report published in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS), the influence of stress and anxiety was shown to increase the number of cancer cells, thus inducing cancer progression.

Cancer Risk and Preventative Measures


Cancer is a severe medical condition that involves the abnormal division of cancer cells in a particular organ or part of the body. In certain cancer cases, the multiplication of cancer cells may be due to a mutation that was caused by exposure to harmful chemicals in the environment or in certain activities such as smoking or alcohol drinking. In other cancer patients, the emergence of cancer cells may be due to a defective gene that was transmitted through heredity. Regardless of route of cancer emergence, it is still important for each individual to be aware of his or her cancer risk and adapt preventative measures to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Preventative measures could help. Some say diet is the key to cancer prevention. Exercise can also serve as a preventative activity against development of cancer cells. Exercise promotes blood circulation, thus allowing the body to receive this important gas, which also plays a major role in most repair reactions inside cells, thus decreasing cancer risk. Getting enough sleep each day can also be a preventative measure against most diseases, will also decrease cancer risk, and at the same time allow the body to recharge after a full day’s work. Sleep is also a natural preventative method against the development of cancer and other medical disorders.

However, it is also important to understand that the effects of the abovementioned preventative measures to lower cancer risk can be useless if a person maintains a high level of stress or anxiety. According to the PLoS report, the continuously high levels of anxiety and stress can offset various cellular activities in the body, which are preventative against cancer cells and can potentially decrease cancer risk. Using cancer-induced mouse models that would represent human subjects with skin cancer or melanoma, these scientists subjected these animals to chronic stress and monitored various cellular and molecular events throughout the experimentation.

The results of the study showed that the immune system of the chronic stress-exposed mice with skin cancer was at a lower level, thus allowing these animals to develop additional medical conditions aside from melanoma. It has also been earlier reported that cancer cells generally develop when the immune system of a person is incapable of fighting foreign bodies or pathogens that have entered the bodies through infection. The study also showed that the lymph nodes of the mice, or the organs that are responsible for producing antibodies against foreign pathogens, were poorly functioning, as compared to cancer-induced mice that were not subjected to chronic stress. All these observations suggested that cancer risk and progression has increased in the presence of chronic stress.

The medical report contributes helpful information on the control of division in cancer cells, decreasing cancer risk, and identifying an additional preventative measure against cancer. Stress and anxiety therefore does not only affect the mental health of an individual, but can also increase the number of cancer cells, resulting in further progression of the disease. With stress and anxiety, the quality of life of a cancer patient can also deteriorate. Decreasing cancer risk by leading a stress- and worry-free life may be another natural preventative method against the development of cancer cells.