Tumour aggression linked to breast cancer patients' stress

By Colin Ricketts - 20 Sep 2011 12:55:0 GMT
Tumour aggression linked to breast cancer patients' stress

A new American study suggests that stress, anxiety and isolation can make breast cancer tumours more aggressive, with ethnic minority populations at particular risk.

In research presented this week at the American Association for Cancer Research's (AACR) Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities Garth H. Rauscher, Ph.D. of the School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago reported on the mental state of 989 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.

"We found that after diagnosis, black and Hispanic breast cancer patients reported higher levels of stress than whites, and that stress was associated with tumour aggressiveness," he said Garth H. Rauscher.

Rauscher and his team asked cancer sufferers to report on their mental state some two or three months after they had been diagnosed with the disease.

He said: "Those who reported higher levels of stress tended to have more aggressive tumours. However, what we don't know is if we had asked them the same question a year or five years before diagnosis, would we have seen the same association between stress and breast cancer aggressiveness?"

"It's not clear what's driving this association. It may be that the level of stress in these patients' lives influenced tumour aggressiveness. It may be that being diagnosed with a more aggressive tumour, with a more worrisome diagnosis and more stressful treatments, influenced reports of stress. It may be that both of these are playing a role in the association. We don't know the answer to that question."

Top Image Credit: Mammography © Micut