Stress is useful to the body and helps us to be more attentive, vigilant and reactive in moments of tension. But when stress becomes chronic, nothing works. Without being seen, it will disturb the body and promote the mechanisms of inflammation which will promote the evolution of an already established cancer. Walking, eating healthy, meditating, breathing, anything that can have an anti-stress activity will also have an anti-cancer effect.
From a physiological point of view, stress is a beneficial reaction, absolutely essential to face an unknown situation or a danger. For example, if your fire alarm suddenly goes off in the middle of the night, the integration of the noise by your brain will almost instantly cause a massive release of adrenaline, a stress hormone whose function is to prepare the individual for confront the threat. Adrenaline causes maximum alertness, increased blood flow and dilated airways, all responses designed to respond as quickly as possible to danger and improve the chances of survival.
Stress, a promoter of inflammation
In addition to these acute stressful situations, several life experiences can generate a state of less intense stress, but which nevertheless extends over longer periods. Family problems, pressure from the workplace or even certain tragic events such as the death of a loved one can all cause intense stress which, when it occurs chronically, has profound repercussions on the balance. physiological functions. For example, the rise in adrenaline associated with stress induces a marked dysregulation of the function of the immune system; thus, stressed individuals have elevated levels of white blood cells (leukocytosis), particularly certain cells involved in inflammation. Chronic stress is therefore not only detrimental to mental and emotional health, but also a condition that can lead to serious physiological repercussions.
Stress helps tumor progression
Intense stress is often mentioned as a factor that can trigger the appearance of cancer. All of the data accumulated so far does not show a link between psychological stress and the development of cancer. A good example comes from studies on parents whose children suffered from cancer or died at a young age and which revealed that these parents, although exposed to a very high level of stress, did not present an increased risk of cancer compared to the population in general.
Even if chronic stress does not seem sufficient to generate cancer, the fact remains that the negative effects of stress on the body could have an impact on the evolution of existing cancers. For example, it has been known for several years that the progression of a cancer from its immature form to its aggressive form, often characterized by the appearance of metastases, involves several mechanisms linked in particular to inflammation. If stress is not currently recognized as a possible cause of cancer, on the other hand, it can be a promoter by stimulating tumor development.
These observations show how certain external physiological conditions such as stress can alter the body’s balance and have a huge impact on the progression of diseases as serious as cancer. The practice of activities known to reduce chronic stress such as regular physical exercise, meditation or any other soothing activity that values the positive aspects of life and minimizes its inconveniences can only have positive repercussions on health. .
Olsen et al. Cancer in parents of children with cancer. N Engl J Med,; 333:1594-99. (2) Li et al. Cancer survival in parents who lost a child: A nationwide study in Denmark. Br J Cancer, 2003; 88:1698-701.
Sloan et al. The sympathetic nervous system induces a metastatic switch in primary breast cancer. Cancer Res 70:7042-52.