In a new report by the American Cancer Society, cancer rates have dropped in the U.S. for the second year in a row! Encouraging news, yes, though it does come with a warning. Lead author of the study says the disruptions in access to cancer care last year during the pandemic will result in increases in late-stage diagnoses, therefore impeding progress on cancer rates for years to come.
Lockdowns, quarantines and fear of contracting COVID-19 have all contributed to the reduction in cancer care in 2021, but what about the added stress and anxiety people have experienced…
The Link Between Cancer and Stress
"Important new evidence published recently suggests that stress is an important factor in promoting recurrence of cancer,” said Marc Shuman, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Chief Medical Officer at MORE Health. “This solidifies many previous studies and implies that treatment of stress may diminish the risk or at least delay the recurrence of cancer."
The new study referenced by Dr. Shuman, who was not affiliated with the study, was released last week and suggests that stress may wake up dormant cancer cells that remain after treatment, causing tumors to form again.
Does Stress Cause Cancer?
There are different types of stress, but chronic stress can take a toll on your physical wellbeing. This never-ending stress causes constant worry and over time can cause health problems.
In “Stress influences on anoikis” published in Cancer Prevention Research, lead author Anil K. Sood says:
“Stress hormones can inhibit a process called anoikis, which kills diseased cells and prevents them from spreading. Chronic stress also increases the production of certain growth factors that increase your blood supply. This can speed the development of cancerous tumors.”
Epidemiological and clinical studies over time have provided strong links between cancer progression and stress-related factors including chronic stress, depression, and social isolation, like many have experienced during the pandemic this past year.
6 Ways to Manage Chronic Stress
- Change your environment. A new physical location can change your perspective.
- Meditate or breathing exercises. It can help you relax.
- Physical activity. Walking, running or other physical activity can improve your mood.
- Call friends and family. Try to avoid complete isolation (in a socially distanced kind of way of course)
- Flex your creative muscle. Try writing in a journal, painting, baking, cooking, puzzles, reading or playing music.
- Get your zzz's. Getting a full night of sleep can better help you cope with stress during the day.
Just like the pandemic of 1918, this too will end. There is hope and as Victor Hugo said, “Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety and is struggling to cope, help is available. Please contact your healthcare provider. If you are in crisis, you can speak with a counselor by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).