Breast cancer is a condition that occurs when cells in the breast grow at an uncontrollable rate and results to the development of tumors. When these growths are malignant or cancerous, they can metastasize to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women, and there’s a 3% chance for a woman to die from the disease. In 2016, it is estimated that there will be 246,660 new breast cancer cases and that 40,450 deaths resulting from the condition.
While breast cancer is quite common, its incidence decreased since 2000. In the United States, there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors. *
A person’s risk for breast cancer is influenced by a number of factors, such as:
- Inherited Genes
- Family history
- History of breast cancer
- Early menstruation and late menopause
- Radiation exposure
- Breast density
- Late pregnancy
But aside from the factors listed, can stress play a role in breast cancer development?
The Link between Stress and Breast Cancer
Roxy Jacenko, a 36-year-old PR executive from Australia, is a career-driven woman. In fact, it was reported that she immediately returned to work hours after she gave birth to her two children. Just this month, news broke out about the lump she discovered on her left breast. Whether it’s malignant or not will be determined in the coming days. Prior to that, her husband Oliver Curtis was convicted of insider trading and sentenced to serve time at Parklea Correctional Centre.
Clearly, Jacenko is going through a lot, especially with what’s happening in her life in the past months. Could all the stress contributed to a possible breast cancer case?
While stress is related to different health conditions, experts are yet to find its direct link to cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, stress can trigger some individuals to resort to certain habits that may contribute to their risk of developing cancer such as smoking, eating excessively, and consuming alcohol. More so, stress can also affect the immune system, which explains why it is usually related to cancer.
The same is echoed by Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia. “Breast cancer is actually the cancer where there’s been the most research about this topic. But in more than 10 studies that have examined the link between stress and breast cancer, no cause and effect has been found,” Aranda said in an interview with news.com.au.
Stress and its Implications on the Body
Stress is the body’s reaction to pressure, threats and demands. It’s normal to experience stress every now and then, but chronic and high-level stress may lead to the development of health problems, both mental and physical.
When a person is stressed, the body responds by releasing stress hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, which results in higher blood pressure, faster heart rates, and higher blood sugar levels. Such reaction is designed to help the body cope with pressure effectively.
However, chronic stress can lead to issues with digestion, fertility, urinary function, and immune system. As a result, the body becomes more susceptible to infections, anxiety, and sleeping problems.
Stress can affect resilience and other bodily functions, but it’s important to note that it’s still not directly related to cancer development. While it can lead to conditions that increase breast cancer risk, there’s still no strong evidence that links stress to the said disease.
How to Lessen Breast Cancer Risk
The best way to reduce your chances of developing breast cancer is to limit the risk factors you can control. For instance, avoid radiation exposure. Moreover, if you’re planning to have children, you might want to avoid late pregnancies as this can make you more susceptible to the disease.
Detecting lumps and growths early is also helpful. Do self-examinations regularly so that you can detect signs of tumors in the breast and allow for early diagnosis and treatment. Regular screenings such as mammograms and physical exams are also essential for people who are at an increased risk for breast cancer.