How much does stress contribute to the onset of cancer?

annalexandria
annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571
edited January 2013 in Colorectal Cancer #1

So yesterday my husband and I were talking about the latest cancer hoax to come down the pike (the Notre Dame football player with the "girlfriend" who died of cancer right before the big game), and the following was said:

Me:  Yeah, when someone's story is full of drama, especially involving cancer, you really have to be suspicious.

DH:  Given that criteria, your whole life must be a hoax.

And you know, he's right, especially looking back at the last ten years or so.  In that time period my family's experiences have included...

a BIL dying from suicide,

a sister who died from cancer at the age of 44, only a year after dx,

my dad developing horrible health problems for two difficult, stressful years until he died,

my oldest daughter developing bipolar disorder, leading to another two years of suicide attempts, delusional thinking, and one call to 911 (you haven't really lived until you've watched your skinny 14 year old get tackled by a couple of burly Seattle cops)

my middle daughter struggling with ADD

my unplanned third child being born when I was almost 40 (that was actually a bright spot in the midst of all the craziness)

and finally, my own cancer diagnosis in '09, which of course had to be some wierd, rare, almost unheard-of form of colon cancer that the doctors had no idea how to treat.

All kind of sounds like a poorly plotted soap opera, but it's not..it's my real, actual life.

So it got me to thinking...what role does stress play in triggering cancer?  I had a freakin' boatload of stress going on, especially in the three years prior to my diagnosis, and I can't help but wonder if this played a role in the development of my cancer.  What about the rest of you?  Did you experience a period of unusually high stress before your diagnosis?  It's just my idle curiosity going here...I realize that there is very little to be done to completely avoid this kind of stress in life.

Ann Alexandria

PS Title edited to make some sense...

 

«13

Comments

  • scared99
    scared99 Member Posts: 72
    I think it has a huge part in

    I think it has a huge part in cancer.   Prior to my moms diagnosis she was the care taker for both my grandparents for 10 years.  They both suffered from numerous ailments and died.   She was under a great deal of stress over this.  2 years earlier her sister was diagnosed with colon cancer and she was the one running her to all her appointments, cooking and cleaning and taking care of her.   When all the stress finally eased up... Both grandparents passed away and her sister finished her chemo she was diagnosed with cancer.  When she was first diagnosed my friend of mine put me in touch with a woman from asia who seemed very knowledgable about cancer.  She said before I even told her that my mom had to have been under a period of stress that lasted years.  She said this is often the case and from being under such prolonged chronic stress your body burns inself out and you develope a weakness in your immune system which lets the cancer develope.  

     

  • Sundanceh
    Sundanceh Member Posts: 4,392 Member
    Ann

    I'll let you know in March:)

  • manwithnoname
    manwithnoname Member Posts: 402
    I think it has a place

    We lived in Spain and while my wife and kids were at the beach a phone call changed everything, my wifes dad died and we were on a plane to Israel that night, after the funeral we moved to my wifes kibbutz which started getting rockets from Hamas, Gaza is 4km away, our eldest son started wetting the bed, few months later he had a brain tumour.

    Taken from his friends and home, grandads death and put in a war zone, and his Dad leaving to Spain to sort things out,  all that in a month. More stress than a 6yr old needs.

    Im also looking at the relationship between anti depressents and increased survival, does depression cause a brain tumour or does a brain tumour cause depression? funny that SSRIs double lifespan in brain tumour patients, (seretonin/typtophan,  T-reg, IDO-1 connection), haven't got the details worked out yet but there is something there.

  • luvinlife2
    luvinlife2 Member Posts: 172
    Stress and Cancer

    While I don't have links to any studies of this, I believe a lot of oncs agree that stress and cancer go hand in hand.  My surgeons, onc, nurses always go out of their way to create less stress for their patients.  I'm a total believer that stress brings on disease by weakening the immune system.  I'm  remembering (as I write this) a power point study that I came across a couple of years ago which showed the connection.  I'll try to find it and post the link.

  • janie1
    janie1 Member Posts: 753

    I think it has a place

    We lived in Spain and while my wife and kids were at the beach a phone call changed everything, my wifes dad died and we were on a plane to Israel that night, after the funeral we moved to my wifes kibbutz which started getting rockets from Hamas, Gaza is 4km away, our eldest son started wetting the bed, few months later he had a brain tumour.

    Taken from his friends and home, grandads death and put in a war zone, and his Dad leaving to Spain to sort things out,  all that in a month. More stress than a 6yr old needs.

    Im also looking at the relationship between anti depressents and increased survival, does depression cause a brain tumour or does a brain tumour cause depression? funny that SSRIs double lifespan in brain tumour patients, (seretonin/typtophan,  T-reg, IDO-1 connection), haven't got the details worked out yet but there is something there.

    Thought about this a lot.

    Thought about this a lot.  Had no deaths or sickness in immediate family. For being a happy person, I was pretty unhappy since back in elementary school.  It was all situational. Kids were mean.  Even so-called friends in high school were not loyal.  Just always had non-stop moderate stress in all phases of life.  But then doesn't everyone?  Just curious if at some point people have a break from too much stress, and that is sort of the tipping point, to where they don't get sick vs. the ones who stay stressed and develope illness.  I compare peoples lives, and my conclusion is that stress is the culprit, of course with some people, other factors contribute (i.e. genetics), but unresolved stress, can't sustain a healthy bod forever.

    What makes me angry, is that I think our generation didn't have the resources to manage stress.  No one talked about it.  

    What's harmful to the younger generations, is really poor diet, the even more toxic environment, nasty pollution.  All that electromagnetic field stuff.  Geeezzzzz.  If I didn't have cancer and had to be close to healthcare, I would go live out in the woods somewhere. 

    Good topic, AA.   ( now I hope I don't get reprimanded for one thing or another)

  • barbebarb
    barbebarb Member Posts: 464
    Stress and cancer could be?
    This post certainly brings out reflective thinking.
    Poor relationship with mother - realize now it wasn't me. My whole life. Cancer made me realize this and her non -emotion
    Worked two part -time jobs after firstborn (have 21 and 23 year old) and I gave up a lot physically and pay potential so my ex -husband could start his architecture firm. (Currently difficult and huge mortgage on building "we " invested in which was an excellent opportunity...we failed -no tenants /construction down- he prob hid $ from me/non - communicative/he had an affair in 1999-too broke to divorce then....sure he has his gripes about me but couldn't get to the bottom of anything. Kids very active - but problems with daughter, more so. Had to call cops a couple times due to outbursts and tantrums.
    Divorced in 08
    Diagnosed in fall 07 w / MS
    Diagnosed I colon cancer at local hospital - Feb 08 when in fact it was rectal cancer.
    Stage IV - Fall 2011. Rectal cancer. Shock of course....
    Have lots of different cancers on my mom's side of family - they are deceased
    Could go on and on - more stress then fun - what the heck was I thinking all these years..
    Yes, extreme financial stress and poor relationship with ex -husband.
    Need a reiki treatment now....
  • Lovekitties
    Lovekitties Member Posts: 3,364 Member
    Stress and the body's ability to cope with it

    While I beleive that stress can be a contributing factor, I don't see it as the actual culprit, at least in my case.  If it were, I would have had cancer 30 years earlier when my marriage was a disaster, I was left with 2 very small children to support alone and had zero assets or resources.  There were some very tough years to follow trying to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.

    When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had been retired for 5 years, owned my own home and was living a pleasant and relatively uneventful life.  That is not to say there were no stressors, but none to compare with earlier life.

    There are so many things in our lives which can contribute to getting cancer, but not everyone with the same conditions gets cancer.  If they ever figure out what makes that difference, maybe there will be a cure.

    Marie who loves kitties

  • manwithnoname
    manwithnoname Member Posts: 402
    janie1 said:

    Thought about this a lot.

    Thought about this a lot.  Had no deaths or sickness in immediate family. For being a happy person, I was pretty unhappy since back in elementary school.  It was all situational. Kids were mean.  Even so-called friends in high school were not loyal.  Just always had non-stop moderate stress in all phases of life.  But then doesn't everyone?  Just curious if at some point people have a break from too much stress, and that is sort of the tipping point, to where they don't get sick vs. the ones who stay stressed and develope illness.  I compare peoples lives, and my conclusion is that stress is the culprit, of course with some people, other factors contribute (i.e. genetics), but unresolved stress, can't sustain a healthy bod forever.

    What makes me angry, is that I think our generation didn't have the resources to manage stress.  No one talked about it.  

    What's harmful to the younger generations, is really poor diet, the even more toxic environment, nasty pollution.  All that electromagnetic field stuff.  Geeezzzzz.  If I didn't have cancer and had to be close to healthcare, I would go live out in the woods somewhere. 

    Good topic, AA.   ( now I hope I don't get reprimanded for one thing or another)

    Hi Joan

    "All that electromagnetic field stuff"  very good point, there is a  study around that shows location of mobile masts increases cancer incidence, also read about schools that removed their WiFi because of problems with attention and learning that were not there before WiFi.

    The generation of kids today eat terrible food and are lazy, they use screens where we used balls, if not cancer it will be diabetes or something that hits them.

     

  • pete43lost_at_sea
    pete43lost_at_sea Member Posts: 3,900
    10 years of haording and marital disharmony

    was it the 10 weeks of german therapies or the peace and quiet and love i found in germany. it was stress free and positive.

    stress is one of the biggest factors i feel, i posted the meditation series many months ago, that went down like a ton of bricks.

    meditation and yoga and exercise help to reduce stress.

    we need our immune systems firing, its an essential part of the puzzle. so many studies, but in my heart i know this is essential for me.

    how we cope with challenges, ie scan results, being positive and in control and not dwelling on the things we cannot control.

    in particular we can control or reaction to emotions and events, we can control our stress, we can directly support our immune system by peace of mind.

    that means specifically you can change the nature and function of your immune system. visualise NK cells eating tumors. it works for me everyday.

    i have gotten rid of stressful people and situations to protect my healing.

    great post ann.

    hugs,

    Pete

  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571
    barbebarb said:

    Stress and cancer could be?
    This post certainly brings out reflective thinking.
    Poor relationship with mother - realize now it wasn't me. My whole life. Cancer made me realize this and her non -emotion
    Worked two part -time jobs after firstborn (have 21 and 23 year old) and I gave up a lot physically and pay potential so my ex -husband could start his architecture firm. (Currently difficult and huge mortgage on building "we " invested in which was an excellent opportunity...we failed -no tenants /construction down- he prob hid $ from me/non - communicative/he had an affair in 1999-too broke to divorce then....sure he has his gripes about me but couldn't get to the bottom of anything. Kids very active - but problems with daughter, more so. Had to call cops a couple times due to outbursts and tantrums.
    Divorced in 08
    Diagnosed in fall 07 w / MS
    Diagnosed I colon cancer at local hospital - Feb 08 when in fact it was rectal cancer.
    Stage IV - Fall 2011. Rectal cancer. Shock of course....
    Have lots of different cancers on my mom's side of family - they are deceased
    Could go on and on - more stress then fun - what the heck was I thinking all these years..
    Yes, extreme financial stress and poor relationship with ex -husband.
    Need a reiki treatment now....

    I'm going to try Reiki for the first time...

    this week!  Just bought one of those online coupons for reiki and massage.  I'm looking forward to it.  I think I read that it's Japanese in origin, and it seems like that culture often comes up with things that really help the body, so I'm hopeful.  Got to try something to deal with all my joint/muscle pain, as pain meds aren't cutting it.  It does sound like you had extra stress in your life before dx, and having cancer in the family (as do I) doesn't help.  One of my docs said "your genetics are the gun, and your environment pulls the trigger".

  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571

    Hi Joan

    "All that electromagnetic field stuff"  very good point, there is a  study around that shows location of mobile masts increases cancer incidence, also read about schools that removed their WiFi because of problems with attention and learning that were not there before WiFi.

    The generation of kids today eat terrible food and are lazy, they use screens where we used balls, if not cancer it will be diabetes or something that hits them.

     

    My BIL's family lived under those giant power lines...

    here in Seattle and ended up with three generations of brain cancer.  It deos make you wonder.  And there's a cancer cluster where I grew up, a little town where mining was big business (although according to the scientists who looked at it, it's not really a cluster, but tell that to all the people in my high school who have cancer).

  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571
    Sundanceh said:

    Ann

    I'll let you know in March:)

    I think you've already mastered the art of stress management,

    so I'm betting those scanas are going to come out looking good!

  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571
    janie1 said:

    Thought about this a lot.

    Thought about this a lot.  Had no deaths or sickness in immediate family. For being a happy person, I was pretty unhappy since back in elementary school.  It was all situational. Kids were mean.  Even so-called friends in high school were not loyal.  Just always had non-stop moderate stress in all phases of life.  But then doesn't everyone?  Just curious if at some point people have a break from too much stress, and that is sort of the tipping point, to where they don't get sick vs. the ones who stay stressed and develope illness.  I compare peoples lives, and my conclusion is that stress is the culprit, of course with some people, other factors contribute (i.e. genetics), but unresolved stress, can't sustain a healthy bod forever.

    What makes me angry, is that I think our generation didn't have the resources to manage stress.  No one talked about it.  

    What's harmful to the younger generations, is really poor diet, the even more toxic environment, nasty pollution.  All that electromagnetic field stuff.  Geeezzzzz.  If I didn't have cancer and had to be close to healthcare, I would go live out in the woods somewhere. 

    Good topic, AA.   ( now I hope I don't get reprimanded for one thing or another)

    School can definitely cause stress...

    my own son has gone from a very happy 2nd grader to a miserable 3rd grader because he has a negative, unkind teacher this year.  It's kind of scary to think how the stress from our childhood may linger to haunt us, and maybe even make us ill, as adults.  I read a book a while back that had interviews with grown women talking about their social experiences as young people, and it was so sad how many still were affected in a negative way by bullying.  How I wish everyone could just stop judging and start being kind to each other.  It would be a much healthier way to live for all of us!  Hugs~AA 

  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571

    Stress and the body's ability to cope with it

    While I beleive that stress can be a contributing factor, I don't see it as the actual culprit, at least in my case.  If it were, I would have had cancer 30 years earlier when my marriage was a disaster, I was left with 2 very small children to support alone and had zero assets or resources.  There were some very tough years to follow trying to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.

    When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had been retired for 5 years, owned my own home and was living a pleasant and relatively uneventful life.  That is not to say there were no stressors, but none to compare with earlier life.

    There are so many things in our lives which can contribute to getting cancer, but not everyone with the same conditions gets cancer.  If they ever figure out what makes that difference, maybe there will be a cure.

    Marie who loves kitties

    It's certainly true that cancer can come out of the blue...

    and there so many other factors (genetics, physical environment, aging cells, etc) that can come into play.  It's complicated stuff, that's for sure.  I wonder if getting cancer at a relatively young age, which is more unusual, has a higher correlation with stress?  Probably will never be any definite answers to all of this, but I find it interesting to think about.  I wish cancer wouldn't have reared its ugly head and messed up your pleasant life of retirement!

  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571

    10 years of haording and marital disharmony

    was it the 10 weeks of german therapies or the peace and quiet and love i found in germany. it was stress free and positive.

    stress is one of the biggest factors i feel, i posted the meditation series many months ago, that went down like a ton of bricks.

    meditation and yoga and exercise help to reduce stress.

    we need our immune systems firing, its an essential part of the puzzle. so many studies, but in my heart i know this is essential for me.

    how we cope with challenges, ie scan results, being positive and in control and not dwelling on the things we cannot control.

    in particular we can control or reaction to emotions and events, we can control our stress, we can directly support our immune system by peace of mind.

    that means specifically you can change the nature and function of your immune system. visualise NK cells eating tumors. it works for me everyday.

    i have gotten rid of stressful people and situations to protect my healing.

    great post ann.

    hugs,

    Pete

    Very good points, Pete!

    Learning stress management techniques is so important.  I was doing qi gong for a bit, then got a recurrence and never made it back.  Need to thing about trying it again.  Right now, I rely too much on my anti-anxiety meds when stress gets bad, and that's probably not the healthiest possible approach.  And getting rid of "stressful people and situations"...so hard to do, but you're right.  Sometimes you have to take steps to protect yourself, if it is at all possible (for me it would mean disinheriting about half my family...).

  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571

    Stress and Cancer

    While I don't have links to any studies of this, I believe a lot of oncs agree that stress and cancer go hand in hand.  My surgeons, onc, nurses always go out of their way to create less stress for their patients.  I'm a total believer that stress brings on disease by weakening the immune system.  I'm  remembering (as I write this) a power point study that I came across a couple of years ago which showed the connection.  I'll try to find it and post the link.

    I'd be curious to see any "hard" science about this,
    so if you find the link and can post it, thanks!
  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571
    scared99 said:

    I think it has a huge part in

    I think it has a huge part in cancer.   Prior to my moms diagnosis she was the care taker for both my grandparents for 10 years.  They both suffered from numerous ailments and died.   She was under a great deal of stress over this.  2 years earlier her sister was diagnosed with colon cancer and she was the one running her to all her appointments, cooking and cleaning and taking care of her.   When all the stress finally eased up... Both grandparents passed away and her sister finished her chemo she was diagnosed with cancer.  When she was first diagnosed my friend of mine put me in touch with a woman from asia who seemed very knowledgable about cancer.  She said before I even told her that my mom had to have been under a period of stress that lasted years.  She said this is often the case and from being under such prolonged chronic stress your body burns inself out and you develope a weakness in your immune system which lets the cancer develope.  

     

    That is a lot of stress,

    and imo, caregiving is one of the hardest things folks face in life.  When my mom was in the hospital in November, one of my sisters stayed overnight with her in the ER.  Mom was in terrible pain that wasn't responsive to opiates, so it was pretty horrible.  My sister has been having nightmares involving the hopsital (only it's her baby granddaughter in the dream, not our mom).  I think she may have some PTSD as a result of the trauma.  This can't be good for her immune system and overall health.  I'm sure that your mom was impacted in a similar fashion.

     

  • manwithnoname
    manwithnoname Member Posts: 402

    I'd be curious to see any "hard" science about this,
    so if you find the link and can post it, thanks!

    Challenge accepted!

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19926547

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17334812

      If you look hard enough you will find the opposite is true...

      This is a hard thing to test, it's subjective.  I also know that shift workers have a higher cancer rate. (melatonin)

      Someone should do a study on buddist monks vs .....anyone.

  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571

    Challenge accepted!

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19926547

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17334812

      If you look hard enough you will find the opposite is true...

      This is a hard thing to test, it's subjective.  I also know that shift workers have a higher cancer rate. (melatonin)

      Someone should do a study on buddist monks vs .....anyone.

    Thanks for the links, Tony...

    the Japanese one was especially interesting to me, in the way that it slid out of the realm of what I consider "hard" science into something approaching the social sciences.  Some interesting cultural stuff going on there was well.

  • annalexandria
    annalexandria Member Posts: 2,571
    I found this article (abstract only)...

    which suggests that stress causes physical damage to our DNA, actually making the telomeres (nucleotides that cap our chromosomes, and protect them from decay) shorter.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC534658/?rendertype=abstract

    title-

    Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress

    Not sure how to make that link clickable...