Stress, depression may affect cancer survival

This study suggests that stress management should be an integral part of cancer treatment.

Story highlights

  • A study finds depression symptoms are associated with increased risk of death
  • Researchers identified the stress hormone cortisol and inflammatory pathways
  • Over a prolonged period of chronic stress, body tissue becomes desensitized
"A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ," John Steinbeck once wrote. Now we are closer to understanding why.
A disease like cancer can be a mortal battle, often fraught with overwhelming stress. Given that stress management can be difficult even under ordinary circumstances, elevated feelings of anxiety and depression in cancer patients are certainly understandable.
Yet, several recent studies underscore how critically important it is for those fighting illness to learn how to combat stress.
A team of researchers led by Lorenzo Cohen, professor of general oncology and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, found that symptoms of depression among a group of patients with late-stage renal cell carcinoma were associated with an increased risk of death. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE in August.
The chief suspects in Cohen's study: cortisol -- also know