Breaking the Silence: Is there any Link Between Stress and Cancer?


Breaking the Silence: Is there any Link Between Stress and Cancer?

Experiencing some level of stress is a natural part of daily life. We experience it often while one is stuck in a traffic jam, a family member is unwell, or the day is full of tasks to accomplish. There could be several causes of stress. However, prolonged periods of stress can take their toll on both physical and mental well-being.  Many believe stress to be one of the major emotional causes of cancer. As such, researchers have begun exploring whether excessive stress may contribute to cancer development or progression.

While the direct impact of stress remains uncertain, some theories suggest it could influence the regular functioning of the body. Chronic stress deregulates important biological systems and compounds the effects of other risk factors over the years. This article aims to provide an overview How stress can be an indirect cause of cancer.

What is Stress?

To lay the foundation for exploring the potential health impacts of stress, it is important to first understand what is stress and its key forms. When the brain perceives a threat, nerve signals trigger the adrenal glands to release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, initiating the body's stress response.

Types of Stress

Broadly, there are two types of stress:

Acute stress

Short-term or acute stress arises from temporary situations with a predictable end time. Acute stress symptoms could be-  panic attack, difficulty in breathing, feeling numb in public places, experiencing flashback, anxiety, profuse sweating etc.

Chronic Stress

Long-term or chronic stress stems from prolonged life circumstances. Chronic stress symptoms are  depression, digestive problems, sleeping issues, weight gain, weak immunity system, fertility issues, etc. This form of stress is more damaging to health over the long run.

When Can Stress Become Harmful?

If you start suffering from chronic stress, it can start impacting your health gradually. Prolonged chronic stress takes a significant toll on physical and mental health over time. It can weaken the immune system, leaving the body more vulnerable to diseases such as cancer according to experts. Chronic stress also elevates the risk of digestive issues and depression.

Research indicates chronic stress may directly impact cancer through multiple pathways.  Stress hormones can interfere with anoikis, the natural process where the body destroys damaged cells to stop tumour from spreading. Some studies find connections between prolonged stress and higher cancer risk,  however, no definitive correlation being established yet.

Chronic stress likewise increases the production of growth factors stimulating blood supply. Enhancing circulation may help tumours develop and metastasise more rapidly.

Cancer Risk Factors Linked to Stress

There have been several theories about the potential link between stress and cancer risk. Some of them are:

  • The immune system plays a crucial role in identifying and eliminating cancer cells. However, chronic stress can weaken the immune system's ability to perform these important functions.
  • Persistent activation of the stress response and prolonged exposure to stress hormones may promote the growth and metastasis of tumours.
  • Long-term stress may lead to a state of chronic inflammation in the body. Inflammation is thought to contribute to cancer development and progression.
  • Stress can also affect the hormone levels in your body, which can increase your risk of cancer. 
  • Stress can also lead you to unhealthy practices like overeating, smoking, and heavy drinking, which can increase the risk of cancer.

What Does Research Say?

Various research were every year to  unveil the  connection between stress and cancer. So far, a 2013 review of 12 studies1 found no association between work stress and overall or specific cancer development like prostate, lung, and breast cancers. However, a 2017 study linked perceived job stress to higher prostate cancer risk in men. A large 2016 study also uncovered no consistent relationship between frequent stress/negative life events and breast cancer risk in women.

As per some individual studies, clear evidence is still lacking on whether stress directly influences cancer causation or risk.

>> Also Read: Cancer Treatment Cost In India: Important Things You Need to Know

How to Reduce Stress?

Here are some effective ways to manage stress:

Talk to a Mental Health Professional

Therapy options like cognitive behavioural therapy can help uncover unhealthy thought patterns and behaviours that lead to stress and anxiety.

Practice Mindfulness

Activities that encourage the presence of the mind, such as meditation and yoga, have been shown to reduce stress levels. Aim for at least 20 minutes twice a day.

Get Adequate Sleep

Making sleep a priority is vital for the immune system and overall health. Adults need around 8 hours sleep per night. Stick to a routine sleep schedule.

Try  Relaxing Activities

Schedule downtime each day to engage in hobbies or passions that you find calming, like spending time in nature, painting, reading, or listening to music.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Eat nutritious meals, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, and limit alcohol and caffeine, which can disrupt sleep and relaxation.

To Conclude

Regardless of its precise role in cancer, chronic stress negatively impacts overall health in numerous ways. It can suppress the immune system, disrupt vital systems, and take a toll on both mental  and physical well-being. Finding healthy stress relief strategies is important for improving quality of life and physical health.

Needless to say, if someone develops the symptoms of cancer irrespective of the causes, the foremost thing that acquires attention is the treatment cost. There is no denying that cancer treatment cost can easily wipe out your lifetime savings. Hence it is always advised to plan your expenses with a cancer health insurance plan. With Care Cancer Insurance or Critical Illness Plan you can consider protecting your hard-earned money and ensure quality healthcare services in the time of need. It is a fixed benefit plan that offers lump sum amount at the time of diagnosis of the illness. This way you can be relaxed at the most crucial time and focus on recovery without compromise.

Disclaimers: The above information is for reference purposes only: Policy Assurance and Claims at the underwriter's discretion.

View Our Editorial Policy


+91 verified
Please enter a valid mobile number
Please enter a valid Full Name
I have read and agree to the Terms & Conditions
Please select terms and conditions
Get updates on WhatsApp

Articles By Category

Health Insurance Articles
Family Family
Senior Citizens Senior Citizens
Maternity Maternity
Surgery Surgery
Heart Heart
Tax & Investments Tax & Investments
Lifestyle Lifestyle
Awareness Days Awareness Days
Child Care Child Care
Money Saving Tips Money Saving Tips
Festive Days Festive Days
Covid-19 Covid-19
Insurance Guide Insurance Guide
Travel Insurance Articles
International International
Student Student
Travel Tips Travel Tips
Visa Visa
Passport Passport
Reach out to us
Whatsapp Chat 8860402452



Chat with Us