Revealing the Link Between Stress and Cancer: Time to Take Back Control

photo credit: Rhoda Baer

The thought that relentlessly haunts cancer survivors, even after successfully having their illness treated, is the fear of its return. This becomes especially salient around the time of getting regular post-treatment screenings. Unfortunately, even when we think the cancer is gone, it is common that some cancer cells remain and are dormant. Scientists have been studying how dormant cancer cells, which are inactive and hidden, can become active again and lead to cancer recurrence. A new study focused on the role of stress and a type of white blood cell called neutrophils and how stress can cause recurrence of disease.

The researchers discovered that stress hormones can make neutrophils release certain proteins called S100A8/A9, which cause inflammation in the body – one factor linked with increased risk of cancer. These proteins activate a substance called myeloperoxidase and lead to the buildup of harmful substances called oxidized lipids inside the neutrophils. When these lipids are released from the neutrophils, they stimulate the growth of cancer cells, causing them to wake up from dormancy and form new cancers.

In patients with lung cancer who had their tumors completely removed, higher levels of S100A8/A9 in their blood were linked to a shorter time until the cancer came back. However, the researchers found that by targeting either S100A8/A9 or certain receptors called β2-adrenergic receptors, which are involved in the stress response and cancer growth, they could prevent the reactivation of dormant cancer cells caused by stress.

These findings show that there is a connection between stress, the activity of specific neutrophils, and early recurrence of cancer. Managing stress is important for cancer patients, and here are three ways to do it:

  1. Seek emotional support: Talk to your loved ones, join support groups, or consider therapy to share your feelings and receive support during your cancer journey.
  2. Practice relaxation techniques: Engage in activities such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga to help reduce stress levels and promote a sense of calm.
  3. Incorporate the Mix of Six into your life: regular exercise, eat a balanced diet, and prioritize sleep to keep your body and mind in good shape, which can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Remember, managing stress is not only beneficial for your mental health but may also play a role in preventing cancer recurrence and improving your long-term outcomes.

Photo credit: Rhoda Baer

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