Stress NOT Associated with Breast Cancer
For years, I have been talking with women about their worries that stress in their lives, or their inability to handle that stress very well, contributed to their development of breast cancer. "No, no, no, no..." I have been saying. I quote the existing studies and point out that the breast cancer rate among women with hugely stressed lives (war survivors, homeless women on the streets, etc) are not higher and that there is absolutely no evidence that proves a link. Much of the time, I am successful with my arguments, but I know that some women are not convinced. There is so much written in the popular/non-scientific literature about stress = cancer, and we are always looking for reasons.
Of course, stress contributes to the quality of our lives, but it does not, not, not cause either an initial breast cancer diagnosis or a later recurrence.
With great pleasure, I am writing today about a new study from the UK that, again, found no connection between social stress and development of breast cancer.
Here is the abstract and then a link if you want to read more:
No evidence that social stress is associated with breast cancer incidence
Paul G. Surtees Æ Nicholas W. J. Wainwright Æ
Robert N. Luben Æ Kay-Tee Khaw Æ
Sheila A. Bingham
Women commonly attribute the experience of
stress as a contributory cause of breast cancer. The purpose of
this study is to investigate the associations between a history
of social stress and breast cancer risk. A total of 11,467
women with no prior history of breast cancer, participants in
the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)-
Norfolk population-based prospective cohort study, completed
a comprehensive assessment of lifetime social
adversity exposure. Summary measures of social adversity
were defined according to difficult circumstances in childhood,
stressful life events and longer-term difficulties in
adulthood, derived measures representing the subjective
'impact' of life events and associated 'stress adaptive
capacity', and perceived stress over a 10-year period. Incident
breast cancers were identified through linkage with
cancer registry data. During 102,514 (median 9) personyears
of follow-up, 313 incident breast cancers were identified.
No associations were observed between any of the
summary social adversity measures and subsequent breastcancer risk, with or without adjustment for age, menopausal
status, parity, use of menopausal hormones, age at menarche,
age at first birth, family history of breast cancer, physical
activity, social class, body mass index, height, and alcohol
intake. This study found no evidence that social stress
exposure or individual differences in its experience are
associated with the development of breast cancer. These
findings may aid strategies designed to meet the psychosocial
and emotional needs of breast cancer survivors and may
be interpreted in a positive way in the context of commonly
voiced beliefs that the experience of stress is a contributory
cause of their disease.