Cancer and stress not linked

AUSTRALIAN woman with breast cancer often blame stress for their illness despite no scientific proof of a link.

And while many point to stress they also commonly overlook other lifestyle-related issues such as smoking and obesity where there is a clear link to the cancer.

These are the key findings of research which took in the views of almost 1500 Australian breast cancer survivors.

It found just over four in 10 (43.5%) believed there was a factor which contributed to their cancer and, among these women, more than half (58.1%) blamed stress.

“It is concerning that only 2% of the women in the study attributed their breast cancer to lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise and alcohol consumption,” said Dr Christine Bennett, chair of the Bupa Health Foundation Steering Committee which part-funded the study.

“... There is scientific evidence that being overweight, smoking and excessive alcohol are risk factors.”

Women under-40 were more likely to believe there was a reason for their breast cancer.

Dr Bennett said that while the exact causes of breast cancer were unknown, studies into the effect of stress on the body and looking for potential triggers of breast cancer did not reveal a link.

And despite commonly-held views to the contrary, there was “no scientific evidence that points to stress as a cause of breast cancer”.

The Bupa Health Foundation and Well-Being after Breast Cancer Study was led by Professor Robin Bell, Deputy Director of the Women’s Health Research Program at Monash University and Alfred Hospital.

Prof Bell said it showed women often responded to a breast cancer diagnosis with a new resolve to improve their overall health, usually through improved exercise.

The research is published in the March edition of the journal Psycho-Oncology.

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