Islamabad: Stressful life events do not, in general, appear to be associated with the risk of developing breast cancer, according to the results of a new study. However, a “modest association” was found between breast cancer and the death of a spouse, relative or friend.
“Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women in Western societies,” Dr. Saskia F.A Duijts and colleagues from Maastricht University, the Netherlands, write. “Studies examining the relationship between stressful life events and breast cancer risk have produced conflicting results.”
In the December 20th issue of the International Journal of Cancer, the researchers published the results of an analysis of several studies that examined the relationship between stressful life events and breast cancer risk. They sought to summarize and quantify this relationship and to explain the inconsistency in previous results.
Statistically significant effects were observed for three categories. These included stressful life events, the death of spouse, or the death of relative or friend, which corresponded with a 77 percent, 37 percent and 35 percent increased risk of breast cancer, respectively.
“The biologic explanation of the overall association and these additional findings might be that stress disturbs various areas of the immune system and that impaired immune system function predisposes to malignant growth,” the authors conclude.
“In contrast to previous studies, clinicians can use these general findings to take an unambiguous and consistent position with regard to women with breast cancer.”