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Study examines the relationship between breast cancer and stress
There have been a few recent cases where prominent women have died of breast cancer. For this reason, the topic is currently on everyone's lips. For a long time, medical professionals believed that stress increases the likelihood of breast cancer. However, researchers have now found that stressful events such as divorces or deaths do not affect the risk of breast cancer.
There are many women in the world who suspect that their breast cancer was caused by stress. Scientists have now found in an investigation that there is apparently no connection between stress and the development of the disease. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Breast Cancer Research".
There are many different reasons why women can develop breast cancer. Researchers have now found that stress is not one of these reasons. Stress does not lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. (Image: SENTELLO / fotolia.com)
Breast Cancer Now generation study
There have long been different views on the causes of breast cancer. Older studies found that there are genes that are responsible for both breast cancer and uterine cancer. Cancer protection organizations say, for example, that women can protect themselves from the disease through healthy body weight, low alcohol consumption, and increased physical activity. The so-called "Breast Cancer Now Generations Study" has now shown that stress in no way increases the likelihood of breast cancer. The researchers examined more than 113,000 British women over a 40-year period.
Doctors questioned subjects about stressful events in their lives
From 2003 onwards, women were asked whether and how often they felt stressed. The doctors determined whether the participants had experienced one of nine stressful events in the past five years. These include, for example, grief, divorce or the loss of a parent at a young age, explain the doctors. The experts then observed women over an average of six years to determine how many women developed breast cancer.
Scientists also consider various other factors
In addition, the researchers collected data on other factors that could be involved in the development of cancer, such as obesity, physical activity, alcohol consumption and the history of breast cancer in the family. The women were also asked about the age at the onset of their first period, the onset of menopause, the number of children, the age at birth and the length of breastfeeding, the authors explain. This allowed the scientists to take the influence of these factors into account in order to identify possible effects of stress.
Long-term exposure to frequent stress is widespread among women
One in three women (34 percent) reported frequent or sustained stress over the past five years. Three out of four women (72 percent) reported at least one stressful adverse event in their lives. Of the 106,612 women, 1,783 women developed breast cancer (around 1.7 percent), the doctors add.
Determining effects of experiences and behaviors is a challenge
Women often think that the disease was caused by stress, the experts explain. However, the researchers were unable to establish a connection between stress and breast cancer. It is still a major challenge to find out what effects experiences and behaviors have on the development of cancer, the authors say. Some time ago, for example, another study found that children of overweight fathers had an increased risk of breast cancer.
Stress is common in life, but not the cause of breast cancer
The current study analyzed the very large amounts of data from many women. The evidence found shows that stress very unlikely increases the risk of breast cancer, the doctors explain. Stressful events in life are common and many women would experience such situations before they developed breast cancer. Nevertheless, the results make it clear that these stressful events are not the cause of the disease, the experts add.
Many breast cancer risk factors can be actively influenced
Age and gender remain key breast cancer risk factors that cannot be influenced by women, the authors say. However, women can maintain a healthy weight, drink little alcohol, and do physical activity to reduce their risk of the dangerous condition. In an ongoing study, German researchers are currently investigating whether such a healthy lifestyle can also prevent hereditary breast cancer. Further research should lead to a better form of diagnosis, treatment and support for affected women, the scientists explain. (as)