Aggressive Forms of Breast Cancer Linked to Stress, Says Study

Monday, September 19, 2011 - 2:00pm

Researchers are learning more about how stress affects the body. Now high levels of stress have been linked to aggressive forms of breast cancer.

Now, new research of nearly 1,000 breast cancer patients links stress with aggressive tumors.

"The scientific community really is only beginning to understand what stress means biologically," says Dr. Garth Rauscher, University of Illinois at Chicago.

The link seems especially strong among black and Hispanic breast cancer patients, who reported higher levels of fear, anxiety and isolation. The caveat is that patients were asked about their stress levels months after they were diagnosed. So it's unclear whether the women had increased levels of stress before their diagnosis.

"The nature of the timing of the collection of information makes it impossible to know what's responsible for what," says Dr. Rauscher.

So while doctors continue to learn more about how stress affects us physically, they say it's far too soon to stress yourself out over it.

"This study definitely doesn't mean that if you get stressed out in the course of your day that puts you at increased risk of breast cancer," says Dr. Rauscher.

The findings will have to be confirmed in larger studies. Another study out today finds that even though the overall incidence of breast cancer is generally higher among white women, secondary breast cancers in the opposite breast are often higher in black women.


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