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Take A Chill Pill

Cancer Health and Wellness June 2019 Patient Care Report Supportive Care

Take A Chill Pill

Jun 2019 - Report - TAKE A CHILL PILL

A recent Chinese study links chronic stress to progression in breast cancer, and raises questions about how closely linked stress and cancer is

By Aatika H Jain

Oh god, the alarm did not ring. Or maybe I snoozed it too many times.
Why doesn’t this traffic move!
OMG, it’s the deadline today!
Where is that maid?
God, how could I forget this!
Damn, will these people drive in their lanes! I am going to be late for the meeting.
Where did I put that important file?

Sounds familiar? Given the kind of fast-paced life we lead these days, we are quite pally with stress. As your heart races, you feel butterflies in your stomach and an ominous restlessness. While stress is a part and parcel of our existence and saves us from danger in many cases, chronic stress can cause damage to our bodies.

What exactly is stress? Stress is a way for our body to react to any kind of demand or danger. Our body can respond to this change emotionally, physically or mentally. We are designed to respond to stress with a fight-or-flight response, and it keeps us alert and safe from danger.

But when an individual continuously faces a threat, whether real or imagined, it has adverse effects. The fight-or-flight response to the stress could become active for an extended period of time, which will eventually cause wear and tear, both physically and emotionally. It can lead to distress, with symptoms like headaches, increased blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, disturbed sleep patterns, and chest pain.

Stress and cancer

A recent study by researchers from Dalian Medical University in China, published in the International Journal of Cancer, examines the correlation between stress and the probability of developing cancer. They found that chronic stress could raise epinephrine levels, which, in turn, increase lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA) and boost breast cancer stem-like cells. They discovered that Vitamin C reversed the phenotype resembling cancer stem cells induced by chronic stress. Using Vitamin C to lower the LDHA could potentially help in fighting stress-aggravated breast cancer. It is important to monitor the stress levels of the patients of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and stomach cancer, the study emphasizes.

Stress and cancer

While stress could worsen certain types of cancer in patients, there is not much evidence of stress can actually cause cancer. Chronic stress and distress can cause alterations in the body, including higher levels of certain hormones and shortening of telomeres at DNA ends; telomeres prevent damage to the DNA. Prolonged-release of stress hormones could potentially damage DNA and its repair mechanisms.

These changes could affect the development of cancer and/or worsen it. In addition, chronic stress worsens our immune system, which is responsible for taking care of genetically and metabolically impaired cells. A weakened immune system may overlook cancer cells. More and more studies have found that chronic stress affects the risk of cancer and its progression because of a destabilized immune system. But there are still several studies that have failed to find any clear association between chronic stress and cancer.

Many experts believe that it is not the stress but how an individual deals with it that affects cancer risk. Many people develop unhealthy habits such as overeating, lack of exercise, alcoholism, excessive smoking, etc. due to stress. While experts may be divided on the correlation between chronic stress and cancer development and its progression, learning to deal with stress in a positive manner will definitely help us in the long run.

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