Could Stress Cause Cancer?

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Stress is linked to a number of health conditionsStress has been blamed for a number of health conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux come to mind, as do ulcers. And we all know stress can trigger temporary bouts of anxiety and depression. But here’s a condition that you’ve probably never associated with stress: prostate cancer.

What’s led to this discovery? Past research has revealed something startling about prostate cancer progression: tumors tend to grow and multiply along nerve fibers. Obviously there is some link between the spread of cancer and the nervous system. So far, no one has understood the nature of this link. Until now, that is.

Researchers think that both nervous response and stress help trigger the onset of prostate cancer and its subsequent spread to other locations.

Your nervous system is responsible for orchestrating all of the automatic functions in your body such as your heart beat and your digestion. It’s generally divided into two branches: the parasympathetic nervous system (PSN) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). In a nutshell, the PSN helps you to rest, stay calm, and use minimal energy. Its polar opposite, the SNS, kicks in a burst of energy to get you to respond to stress and perceived threats. It is the SNS that is linked to prostate cancer in its earliest stages and the PSN that gets involved when the condition has progressed.

The researchers explain the connection through a hormone called noradrenalin. Noradrenalin is responsible for triggering physical changes in your body when it is subjected to stress by sending more blood to the muscles and accelerating your heart beat. It is this hormone which also holds a key which allows it to bind to corresponding receptor molecules present in prostate cancer tumor cells. Once noradrenalin binds to the cancer cells, another chemical is released that allows the cells to divide and take root elsewhere in the body.

These discoveries point to the fact that it’s better to deal with stress before it negatively affects your health. On the cancer front, this connection between tumor growth and stress is leading to new possibilities for the treatment of prostate cancer. Drugs that block the stress response may be able to play a role in stopping the spread of cancer cells. These drugs could help make sure that noradrenaline doesn’t have access to bind to cancer cells.

In another clinical trial, a research team from the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia decided to test this hypothesis. They knew from previous work, that beta-blockers, when used in the management of hypertension, also imparted benefits in cancer patients. They therefore set out to investigate whether beta-blockers could be beneficial when used in combination with chemotherapy for the treatment of neuroblastoma (a type of cancer commonly found in children). The researchers tested seven beta-blockers for their anticancer properties. They found that even when administered alone, beta-blockers slowed tumor growth. When used in combination with chemotherapy, beta-blockers triggered a four-fold increase in survival.

This is an exciting new frontier in the world of cancer treatment and prevention.

We’ve always known that stress can be damaging to health—so before it causes any real problems, take precautions, such as trying these six natural remedies for stress.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Magnon, C., et al., “Autonomic nerve development contributes to prostate cancer progression,” Science. July 12, 2013; 341(6142):1236361.
“Prostate Cancer Linked to Stress and Nerves, Research suggests,” Huffington Post Lifestyle Canada web site, July 11, 2013;, last accessed July 17, 2013.
Pasquier, E., et al., “β-blockers increase response to chemotherapy via direct antitumour and anti-angiogenic mechanisms in neuroblastoma,” Br J Cancer. June 25, 2013; 108(12): 2485-94.