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Author Topic: Can stress cause cancer?  (Read 4311 times)

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Can stress cause cancer?
« on: 06/03/2008 08:18:22 »
An elderly person I know has been under a lot of stress for a few months. She is living in an environment she doesn't want to be in and is unhappy about it. Plus there are other things putting stress on her.

Yesterday she was taken into hospital and the doctors suspect a tumour or cancer. They don't hold out much hope of her lasting past the weekend.

Although she has been frail for quite some time and suffers from dementia, she was pretty happy with things until everything changed just before Christmas when she went to live somewhere else. Since then she has gone downhill and now this.

I know stress can cause lots of illnesses (or, at least, cause latent illnesses to manifest), but can it cause cancer?


 

Offline iko

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Can stress cause cancer?
« Reply #1 on: 06/03/2008 11:34:10 »
Hi Dr. Beaver,

in my limited personal opinion, the answer could be:

Yes, in certain circumstances, stress itself may contribute to cause cancer.
As anybody can imagine, this is almost impossible to demonstrate scientifically.
We are left with our personal memories of patients and sad human case histories in which a cancer diagnosis had been only the last awful thing in a terribly hopeless lifetime.

As you probably already know, I am fascinated by the infection-cancer connections, so I'd like to post here an old experiment concerning the stress-infection connection instead. 
Unfortunately I cannot find anymore that scientific report or even the reference, but it should somewhere in the wwweb!
I'll try to squeeze my memory in spite of a galloping senile dementia (bad type: vitamin D and cod liver oil resistant!).
It was called: "Learned Helplessness Experiment"

A model of environmental stress was set up for guinea pigs (or rats?) in special cages:

1) Control cases were living peacefully in 2 communicating cages.

2) 'Stressed' cases had learned to escape to the communicating cage when a light had been switched on, because an electric shock would have been delivered in the first cage-floor in seconds after the light.

3) 'Stressed without hope' cases had no chance of running away to the communicating cage when a light had been switched on, because they would have suffered a bad electric shock anyway, even in the second cage.

Immune profiles were studied by special tests available in those days:

Stressed animals had some immune impairment, compared to normal controls, still compatible with a sufficient immune response to infectious stimuli.

'Stressed without hope' animals showed an immune defence totally knocked down: no 'killer cells', no antibody production, no phagocytosis.
A picture of paralysis of the immune system incompatible with individual survival.


ikoD
« Last Edit: 08/03/2008 17:13:42 by iko »
 

another_someone

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Can stress cause cancer?
« Reply #2 on: 06/03/2008 14:03:10 »
I have generally understood that cancer is something which we all have, in that we all are constantly having a small number of cancerous cells in our body, but the number is manageable, and the immune system is usually more than capable of mopping them up.

The problem with stress, as Iko has indicated, is that it can impair the immune system, so I assume that the immune system simply fails to properly mop up the odd rogue cell here and there, and that odd rogue cell manages to get a hold and proliferate.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Can stress cause cancer?
« Reply #3 on: 06/03/2008 18:34:17 »
Thanks for your replies. Unfortunately the person concerned passed away this morning.

Iko - I remember that experiment; or, at least, 1 very similar.
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Can stress cause cancer?
« Reply #4 on: 06/03/2008 20:06:11 »
Sorry Doc. I think we've all lost someone from cancer. I used to work for ICI Pharma working on Breast Cancer drugs. I was young and it didn't mean anything to me. Then I lost a school friend with breast cancer, my brother died at 36 of liver cancer and then my Aerobics teacher told me she owed her life to this particular drug. I started crying and she couldn't understand why. The reason was that I'd lost so many loved ones and here in front of me was someones daughter, someones wife, someones friend and someones mum alive because of the drug I'd worked on as a 20 year old.
When we rubbish the drugs companies,as I often do,we should think about the people alive because of them.
Sorry, sermon over.
 

Offline iko

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Can stress cause cancer?
« Reply #5 on: 06/03/2008 22:13:54 »
Thanks for your replies. Unfortunately the person concerned passed away this morning.

Iko - I remember that experiment; or, at least, 1 very similar.

I'm sorry, dear Dr.Beaver

...but was it cancer, infection, or...what?
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Can stress cause cancer?
« Reply #6 on: 06/03/2008 22:46:21 »
Iko - we won't know until the autopsy has been performed.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Can stress cause cancer?
« Reply #7 on: 06/03/2008 22:47:29 »
The reason was that I'd lost so many loved ones and here in front of me was someones daughter, someones wife, someones friend and someones mum alive because of the drug I'd worked on as a 20 year old.
When we rubbish the drugs companies,as I often do,we should think about the people alive because of them.
Sorry, sermon over.

That's a nice story and I echo your sentiments.
 

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Can stress cause cancer?
« Reply #7 on: 06/03/2008 22:47:29 »

 

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