By Jaimie Dalessio
Yoga. Mediation. Slow, deep breaths. Maybe even tai chi. Men with prostate cancer take note -- these relaxation techniques might benefit your cancer treatment, not to mention your emotional well-being.
That's the implication, at least, of a study on the link between cancer and stress in mice, published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Researchers at Wake Forest University exposed some of the mice to a predator scent and found that an anti-cancer drug didn't kill as many cancer cells in those mice as in the mellower -- or at least un-stressed -- mice. Moreover, the adrenaline produced when the mice were stressed prevented cancer cells from dying, the researchers found.
Past research has linked cancer and stress, but not examined the mechanism by which the two might be connected.
"The most novel thing about the finding is that it brings a new component into play, which is the psychosocial environment," says lead researcher George Kulik, PhD, from Wake Forest University, "And what it means is that [stress] has to be considered as part of therapy, so patients with high levels of stress hormones would be identified."
The study noted that adrenaline-inhibiting beta-blockers, used to treat high blood pressure, might boost the efficiency of cancer treatments -- a tactic suggested by a 2004 study that found lower incidence of prostate cancer reported among patients taking beta blockers.
Dr. Kulik says his findings among mice need to be confirmed in humans. "We need to study effects of stress and stress hormone elevation in prostate cancer patients to make sure what we've discovered in mice take place in humans."
The authors of an accompanying paper, also published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, second Kulik's thoughts, writing that additional studies must expand on these findings before clinical application is possible.
In the meantime, it can't hurt for people with prostate cancer to get a handle on their stress levels for better overall health -- more energy, and less pain and anger.
"Stress Fuels Prostate Cancer in Mice" originally appeared in Everyday Health.