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Stress Can Significantly Increase Cancer Risk, Research Shows

— January 24, 2023

Learning to minimize stress can help reduce one’s risk of developing cancer.

A third of American adults suffer from extreme consistent stress on a daily basis, and as many as three-quarters of stress sufferers report that it negatively impacts their mental and physical health.  According to the SSM Population Health journal, not only can stress do a number on one’s overall health but it increases the risk of dying from cancer. 

In some instances, cancer patients with chronic stress are 2.4 times more likely to die from cancer complications. This number was found without factoring in confounding variables in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data collection. The data was collected from 1988 to 2019, and scored the stress that people experienced. Those with a score of 3 or higher were 2.4 times higher to experience fatal results. 

When a person is stressed, the body releases something called cortisol. This is commonly known as the “stress hormone.” It changes how the body works so it can handle high-stress situations. Adrenaline is released, digestion slows, and one’s heart rate and blood pressure both amplify. When an individual is in this state, it has been referred to as “fight or flight,” which is the basic humanistic instinct to either face, or run from, a threat.

Stress Can Significantly Increase Cancer Risk, Research Shows
Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

Anyone who experiences chronic stress will experience its negative impact on their mind and body. Remaining in a constant state of fight or flight will lead to extreme anxiety, which hurts  mental health. Over time, the stress response takes a significant toll on vital organs, leading to heart problems, weight gain, general illness and other ailments. The immune system can be repressed which leaves the body more susceptible to disease. This is a very bad thing for those with cancer, especially if they are doing treatments that already repress the immune system. Cancer patients are more likely to get sicker, eventually leading to death.

With cancer being the second leading cause of death in the United States, it has become extremely important for cancer patients to reduce stress to increase their chances of living. 

To manage stress,taking care of one’s body. on a daily basis is important This includes eating nutritious food, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep. Cancer patients have to take extra care of their bodies with the damage that cancer and treatments cause. They are likely to experience extra fatigue and lethargy while in treatment. If extra sleep, food, water, and vitamins are needed, then the patient should make sure those needs are met. 

Mindfulness activities are also highly encouraged for cancer patients. Spending time outside, conversing with loved ones, and engaging in mindful breathing are all great ways build a self care routine into daily life. Journaling can also be a helpful way for cancer patients to write down and process the stress they feel. 

Finding a support group has helped many cancer patients reduce cancer-related chronic stress in their lives. These groups give patients people to talk to who understand what they are going through. In a support group, cancer-specific stress-relieving activities can be shared, relieving the internal burden of the disease. 

However a person chooses to find relief, it’s important to make this a priority. Engaging in self-care can boost the success rate of treatment and improve overall outcomes.


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