See what chronic stress does to your body
Are you a high-strung type of person? My girlfriend is. She has ‘type A’ written all over her, from her constant need to be in control of things to her competitive drive. Myself, on the other hand, am the total opposite. I can’t seem to care about anything for some reason. Maybe because at a young age I decided that a ‘no worries’ type of approach to life was much easier on my stress levels than a ‘worry about everything’ type of approach.
And as it turns out, I might have gotten things right. Always having a carefree attitude isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it’s at least helpful when it comes to stress hormones and the role they play in spreading cancer in the body.
A study done on mice found that when they were exposed to continuous, ongoing stress, their lymphatic systems experienced changes in physical composition. These changes allowed for even faster spreading of cancer in the body.
While the study has yet to be conducted on human test subjects, this study only provides further evidence that stress is highly correlated with cancer progression and aiding in the spread of tumor cells.
Monash University researcher, Erica Sloan, says “not for a minute are we suggesting that someone who’s just been diagnosed with cancer should not be stressed, because that would have to be one of the most stressful situations. But rather how do we look after cancer patients..?”
It has been known for some time now that stress hormones have the ability to increase blood vessel formation, effectively giving cancer cells an increased number of escape routes to spread through, but until this study, it was unclear as to whether or not they also affected the lymphatic system. Their study showed that stress hormone adrenaline activates the sympathetic nervous system in order to increase rate of lymph formation.
In the animation above, you can see the difference in a particle’s speed as it travels through a lymph vessel affected by chronic stress levels (below) and one without chronic stress problems (above).
Luckily for us, scientists have already found a drug that will help inhibit this process; it’s a beta-blocker that has already been on the market for years, and it’s called ‘Propranolol’.
To see whether or not patients had been unknowingly fighting off cancer by taking Propranolol, scientists reviewed data on 1,000 breast cancer patients in Italy. What they found was that those who had been taking the beta-blocker exhibited “far less evidence of tumor cells moving into the lymph nodes and then disseminating to other organs…”
After discovering this, researchers are now preparing to conduct a new study on a group of women with breast cancer, hoping to reproduce similar results that show the beta-blocker does in fact reduce the spread of cancer, so that we might be able to take advantage of the inexpensive drug.
Check out their study in Nature Communications.