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Being Stressed Out Could Cause You to Develop this 1 Deadly Disease

By on August 29, 2013
We’re all used to a little stress–but what if it’s something you can’t control? Research shows that a significant amount of Americans deal with high stress levels everyday, and a disturbing new study says it may affect your health in a scary new way.

“If your body does not help cancer cells, they cannot spread as far,” says Tsonwin Hai, a professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry at the University of Ohio. “So really, the rest of the cells in the body help cancer cells to move, to set up shop at distant sites. And one of the unifying themes here is stress.”

Bottom line? If you’re stressed out, your body can’t stop cancer from spreading–and ultimately could equal a higher mortality rate.

How Stress Fuels Cancer

Although previous studies linked higher stress levels to more aggressive forms of cancer–in 2011, researchers found that aggressive breast tumors were often triggered by high stress levels–until now researchers were unsure of the mechanisms behind this risk.

But now–thanks for Hai’s team and a test on rodent samples–the cause is clear.

To investigate the effects of stress on cancer tumors, researchers injected breast cancer cells into otherwise healthy rodents and rodents that were unable to express ATF3, a type of gene previously correlated with higher mortality rates for breast cancer patients when activated. They then observed the outcome, and what occurred hardly surprised them: Mice that lacked the ATF3 gene did not develop cancer as rapidly as the healthy mice with the gene.

The ATF3 gene changes how cells adapt to stress, making this an important finding.

Next, researchers repeated the same experiment, but instead of using mice that lacked the ATF3 gene, they used mice that lacked ATF3 only in their myeloid cells, type of immune system cells.

So what happened? Again, the mice that lacked the ATF3 gene in their myeloid cells fared better with breast cancer.

“In conclusion, we identified ATF3 as a regulator in myeloid cells that enhances breast cancer metastasis and has predictive value for clinical outcomes,” says Hai. “Importantly, this expression of ATF3 predicted poor clinical outcome in a cohort of patients, suggesting that dampening ATF3 expression in the host may be a potential therapeutic approach.”

Case in point? Stress sucks–and if you have cancer, it could make it harder to survive.

Lowering Your Stress the Best Bet?

It’s easier said than done, but if you want to lower your overall cancer risk, or perhaps survive a pre-existing cancer, then you need to do it: Lower your stress levels. But what’s the best way to put the flame out on your temper?

“Give yourself a 5-minute break from whatever is bothering you and focus instead on your breathing,” says Jenny Stamos Kovacs of WebMD.com. “Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head.”

If you don’t have time to a few minute of deep breathing, however, reaching out to a support group, avoiding multi-tasking, and playing soothing music are all ways to keep stress under wraps, claims Kovacs.

Readers: What are some other ways you keep stress levels low?

Sources:
10 Ways to RelaxWebMD.com
Stress Linked to Poor Breast Cancer OutcomeJCI.org

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