Role Of Stress In Genesis Of Cancer

The modern life has become fast and competitive right from the cradle to the grave, generating a lot of stress that may lead to genesis of cancer by suppressing immune system of the body. Immune and nervous systems of the body are linked by extensive network of nerve endings in the spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow and the thymus gland. In a recent psychoneuroimmunological research, the receptors for catecholamines, prostaglandins, growth hormones, thyroid hormones, sex hormones, serotonin and endorphins have been found on surface of the white blood cells, indicating that mind and emotions may influence the body’s immunity by interaction between the nervous system, hormonal system and immune system of the body.

The longest ever research done in the history of medicine, to study the role of emotions in genesis of the human cancer, was initiated in 1946, in which 972 students of John Hopkins School of Medicine were divided into five groups on the basis of certain psychological measures by Pirkko Graves and her colleagues. This study, which continued for more than three decades, has revealed that the loner students who suppressed their emotions, were having sixteen times higher risk of cancer than those who expressed their feelings openly. Another study performed on 1337 students, has revealed that those students, who lack closeness to their parents have a much higher risk of cancer.

Stress is a highly individual response to the given situation (emotional, social or physical) rather than the situation itself. Anything that is new may evoke stress response as the body and the mind prepare to meet the unknown challenge. Stress may be acute or chronic. The acute or short-term stress is generated by sudden unexpected hour-to-hour events, whereas the chronic or long-term stress is generated by major events of life such as bereavement, financial loss, legal problems, chronic disease and unemployment. It is not the quantity but the quality of stress that kills. A certain amount of stress is in fact desirable as it provides motivation for constructive work and is essential for the personal growth of an individual. Some events that lead to enthusiasm, excitement, confidence, happiness, joy and love generate a positive stress. On the other hand, fear, anxiety, hate, resentment, irritation, frustration, guilt, jealousy, anger, dissatisfaction and boredom generate negative stress.

Certain persons and stress are made for each other. The type A persons, according to psychologists, are tense, angry, impatient, fist clenching, ambitious, competitive and work oriented. The type A persons are always under pressure of time and refuse to acknowledge the tiredness. On the other hand, the type B persons are easy going, less anxious, contented and philosophical. Studies have revealed that type A persons have a higher risk of cancer as compared to type B persons. The chronic stress is usually unrecognised and a person accepts it as a part of life, totally unaware of its outcome. Stress leads to palpitation, hypertension, hyperglycaemia, hypercholesterolaemia, dryness of the mouth, impaired digestion and spasm of the muscles & the blood vessels. This reaction is known as “Flight or Fight Reaction” that represents a very high output state of the body. Stress leads to production of corticosteroid hormones that suppress activity of the immune cells, thus enhancing the risk of cancer. Unrelieved chronic stress may lead to hyperactivity of sympathetic autonomic nervous system, which in turn, suppresses activity of the immune cells by inducing secretions of adrenaline, cortisol and some other hormones. To avoid stress, one is advised to do regular exercises, practise yoga, take adequate sleep, develop the sense of humour, learn to laugh, use anger creatively and above all, learn the art of forgiveness.

Dr. S.P. Kaushal
Sino Vedic Cancer Clinic

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