Stress Fuels Cancer Growth

by Lois Etienne on October 14, 2010

in Senior Health and Safety

While caregiving has many upsides, it’s one of the most stressful jobs there is and a commitment that definitely takes a toll on the family caregiver.

In 2005, three-fifths of caregivers reported fair or poor health status, one or more chronic conditions, or a disability, compared with one-third of non-caregivers.1 Caregivers also reported chronic conditions (including heart attack/heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis) at nearly twice the rate of non-caregivers (45 vs. 24 percent), according to the same study.

Also, recent research has revealed that stress can contribute to even more serious problems when it comes to achieving total health. Previous studies have indicated stress fuels cancer growth, but this new research seems to nail it down. One study found chronic stress acts as fertilizer to feed breast cancer and the other says stress helps cancer survive treatment therapy.

Researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center report they have found chronic stress acts as a catalyst to feed breast cancer progression, significantly accelerating the spread of disease in animal models. The study appears in a recent issue of the peer-reviewed journal Cancer Research.

The second breaking research report finds that patients who experience physical or psychological stress – including rigorous exercise – one or two days before a cancer treatment might be unknowingly sabotaging their therapy.

Stress in the body – even physical stress caused by intense exercise – activates a stress-sensitive protein that can spark a series of events that allow cancer cells to survive such treatments as chemotherapy and radiation, according to the research from Ohio State University, which appears online in the journal Molecular Cancer Research.

Talk to your doctor about the stress you are experiencing. Also, please visit our Caregiver Support section for more information and resources about how to handle caregiver stress including the ways you could find respite care through Home Instead Senior Care.

For more information about In Home Care Services for Alzheimer’s patients, or to get answers to your questions, please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.  We can be reached — anytime day or night – by calling: Spokane: 509.835.5898, North King/SnohomishCounties: 425.670.2292 or South King/Pierce Counties: 253.943.1603. You can also email us at

1.     Ho, A., Collins, S., Davis, K. & Doty, M. (2005). A Look at Working-Age Caregivers Roles, Health Concerns, and Need for Support (Issue Brief). New York, NY: The Commonwealth Fund.

For additional information about the Ohio State University research, log on to

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