Beating cancer once seems like it should be enough of a challenge for any lifetime. But the truth of the matter is cancer often does come back. Doctors haven’t been able to pinpoint just why some tumors suddenly activate again sending many survivors back into the spiral of surgery, chemo and radiation. Until now.
Thanks to recent research, we may have just gotten an idea of what kicks cancer cells back into gear — and it’s all wrapped up in stress…
Turning dormant cells into active cancer
The recurrence of tumors is one of the leading causes of death in cancer patients.
And past studies have demonstrated that cancer recurrence happens when dormant tumor cells, which initially spread during the early stages of cancer, become active once more.
But it was the mechanism behind that reactivation that had the medical community scratching their heads.
So, researchers at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia set out to find the answer by looking at the role stress hormones play in whether cancer comes back — or not.
To nail down the answer, the team looked at data from both mice and humans. And in it, they found the answer to why cancers can return…
They discovered that stress hormones such as norepinephrine reactivated dormant lung and ovarian cancer cells in mice. Specifically, they found that when they exposed the mice to stressful situations, their stress hormones went up.
When this happened, immune cells known as neutrophils started pumping out S100A8/A9 proteins and fatty molecules that in turn prompted tumor cells to reawaken from dormancy.
And here’s where the human data comes in…
When the team studied serum samples from 80 patients who had their lung cancers surgically removed, they found patients with higher concentrations of S100A8/A9 were more likely to have experienced cancer recurrence within 33 months post-surgery.
Stress and cancer recurrence certainly appear to go hand in hand.
Staying stress-free so that you can stay cancer-free
This means that, for anyone who’s already beaten cancer once, one of the most important steps to help decrease the odds of never having to battle it again is to manage stress.
A few proven stressbusters that might help are:
#1 — Sleep
The amount of time you sleep and even the quality of the sleep you get can affect the levels of your stress hormones. Shoot for eight to nine hours a night and be sure to optimize your sleep by skipping devices that emit blue light for an hour before bed, keeping your room cool and dark, and sticking to a regular sleep schedule.
#2 — The Mediterranean diet
Integrative medicine doctor Yufang Lin, M.D., from the Cleveland Clinic points out that, “A healthy diet is the underpinning of stress management.”
What does Dr. Lin suggest diet-wise?
- Taking a quality multivitamin to prevent vitamin deficiencies
- Eating balanced meals
- Going Mediterranean in your diet to help your body make the neurotransmitter it needs to balance your mood
#3 — Exercise
Getting regular physical activity can help lower the stress you feel and the levels of the hormones that drive cancer recurrence. Studies have even demonstrated that exercise reduces cortisol levels in the elderly and in people who suffer from major depressive disorder. Exercise has more credibility as a cancer slayer you can read about here.
#4 — Outdoor time
Finally, try spending more time in nature. Getting out into the great outdoors can calm your mind, lower stress hormones and keep you on track to a cancer-free life.
Stress is behind many of the illnesses we now suffer in this modern, fast-paced world. And it now seems it’s the driving force that kicks tumor cells back into gear. So bust that stress to bust those cancer cells and stay healthy for life.
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Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions — National Library of Medicine
How to Reduce Cortisol and Turn Down the Dial on Stress — Cleveland Clinic