It’s easy to say and, for many, incredibly hard to do. Relax. Loosen up. Don’t worry so much. The best health advice. Anxiety is a very real presence in the lives of a lot of people. But in one segment of people — cancer patients — it could be doing an even greater world of harm. For them, it is a must that anxiety be dealt with. Because their lives might be at stake.
A new piece of health news has found that cancer can be accelerated by a body prone to worrying and anxiety. Stanford University researchers discovered, in mice, that anxiety led to more severe cancer than in those that remained calm.
Hairless mice were dosed with ultraviolet (UV) rays and the nervous ones developed more tumors and more invasive cancer. Consistent anxiety also came hand-in-hand with chronic stress and a dampened immune system. Though stress is well-documented to cause disease, this is the first study to connect the personality trait of high anxiety to greater cancer threats.
While some stress can actually be good for the body, it’s the chronic kind that exerts a negative toll on the body. It makes you less able to fend off disease. To find out how much stress is too much, this study sought to figure out the link between anxiety and actual stress.
They did special evaluations to see which mice exhibited characteristics that resembled high anxiety. Then they administered UV rays similar to those people would experience if they spent too much time in the sun. A few months later, tumors developed. The types of tumors, though, would be very susceptible to an immune system attack.
All mice did develop skin cancer, but the anxious ones had more tumors and were the only ones to have invasive forms of cancer. Nervous mice had higher levels of cells that suppressed the immune system, and had fewer chemical signals that fired up an immune protective response.
The last piece of the puzzle: levels of corticosterone, which comes out in response to disease and stress, were cranked up in anxious mice. Therefore, they had more sensitive stress sensors and a lower threshold for dealing with stressful situations.
This will need to be backed up in a study on humans, of course. But, for cancer patients, it is simple to see that dealing with anxiety in whatever means necessary could prevent a tumor from going invasive and spreading. Cancer treatment, in this way, extends to the mind. Time to look into meditation and other stress-fighting techniques!