Does Stress Cause Cancer?









We all know stress is bad for us.  It makes us feel on edge, become irrational perhaps, affects our sleep and mood, along with causing physical symptoms such as stomach upsets.  But have you ever thought about the damage long-term stress can have on your body?

When stress first occurs, Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) is released into the blood from the tiny pituitary gland found at the base of the brain.  When the hormones reach the adrenals (two small glands above the kidneys), it causes their cortex to produce cortisone and other messengers. It’s these adrenal cortex hormones that quickly prepare us to meet the emergency facing us.

Next, protein is drawn away from the thymus and lymph glands and converted into sugar for instant energy, causing a sudden rush in blood sugars. Any other sugars stored in the liver as starch or glycogen can also be instantly converted into energy if needed.  Our blood pressure then increases; minerals are taken from the bones; fat stores are moved; and high amounts of salt are retained.  This is known as the ‘alarm reaction’ and commonly referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response; our bodies are preparing to battle danger or flee from it.

If stress continues past this point, the body attempts to repair itself, often referred to as the ‘stage of resistance.’  However, when stress is continuous over a prolonged period of time, it can make repair extremely difficult, leaving your body a target for disease; such as cancer for example.

Now, we are not saying that stress causes cancer directly.  BUT if cancer rates are increased by physical carcinogens in our environment, sure the psychosocial carcinogens (i.e. stress) must have an impact too?

Dr Paul J. Rosch, M.D., F.A.C.P. President, The American Institute of Stress says; “What determines resistance or susceptibility to cancer? Behavioral factors and inappropriate responses to stress must also be considered along with genetic factors in attempting to understand why some individuals develop cancer.”  Dr Rosch also goes onto say; “Impaired host resistance due to disturbances in immune system function seem to be an important factor.”

So whilst cancer may not be solely attributed to stress alone; it can and does have a very significant effect upon a person’s susceptibility to the disease; the rate in which it progresses; and ultimately the recovery success too.

Finding ways to manage the external stresses thrust upon us is therefore essential in building our resistance to disease.

So, here are some of my top suggestions for keeping a calmer balance to your life:

  • Good balanced nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Laughter
  • Dancing (you know me, any excuse!)
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness thinking
  • Relaxation techniques
  • ‘Tapping’ (aka Emotional Freedom Technique)


Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

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