We all know that lifestyle choices such as drinking alcohol, diet and exercise play a role in breast cancer, but according to new research, stress also plays a role. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that psychosocial stress may cause breast cancer tumors to become more aggressive, particularly among minority populations.
Psychosocial stress includes feelings of fear, anxiety and isolation. The study examined 989 patients who were recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Of those, non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white and Hispanics reported higher levels of stress than whites and that stress was linked with tumor-aggressiveness. Those breast cancer patients with the highest levels of stress had the most aggressive tumors, researchers found.
The study promotes a bit of the chicken-or-the-egg question though. Does the stress itself cause breast cancer tumors to be more aggressive? Or does having more aggressive breast cancer tumors and more stressful treatments drive up stress levels? Or is it a combination of both? More study is needed, researchers say.