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Can Stress Lead to Cancer? Let's Find Out

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19-07-2022 |

In our fast-paced world, more and more people are prone to developing chronic lifestyle ailments and life-threatening diseases. These are due to the increase in pollution and environmental toxins, high work stress and workload, rise in the consumption of processed and inorganic foods, and lack of movement and sedentary lifestyle.

All these factors directly cause or contribute to stress. And while stress is a good thing and a normal response to a state of emergency or crisis, continued and persisting stress is not. Chronic stress can cause ailments that compromise the quality of life, like digestive problems, inflammation, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fertility problems, and other issues in general.

Later, these can progress to diabetes, hypertension, weak bones, and weakened immunity. But what is the effect of stress on one of the most debilitating diseases – cancer? Is there a direct link between stress and cancer, and does stress cause cancer? Read on to find out:



Does Stress Cause Cancer?

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It is natural to think that stress can cause cancer, as it has the potential to directly cause other diseases. Till now, there is mixed evidence regarding the question of how does stress cause cancer. But a handful of preliminary studies conducted by research and medical institutions on groups of men and women showed no direct conclusion about how stress can lead to cancer.

For instance, a practical study conducted by the National Institute of Health on around 1,60,00 women in the United Kingdom in 2016 tried to understand whether frequent stress or stressful life events affected or increased their risk of breast cancer. In 2017, the same institute tested over 2,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer to check if work stress could spur the stress and cancer link.

However, in both studies, there was no concrete and consistent evidence to suggest that continued/ chronic stress can increase the risk of developing cancer. So, the short answer is no. Stress does not cause cancer. At least directly. But there are several other studies that suggest that stress can lead to cancer and indirectly fasten the growth of cancer cells.



Does Stress Cause Cancer Indirectly?

When a person experiences stress, the body's biological response is to release the necessary stress hormones – cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. When stress is acute, these hormones can help deal with the triggering problem at hand and subside the symptoms caused by it with time or after the incident is over. But when stress becomes prolonged or chronic, it can lead to many harmful habits and other illnesses, which in turn can increase the risk of cancer.

For instance, if a person is continually stressed and picks up the habit of smoking or drinking alcohol in excess, then it could lead to cancers like lung cancer or liver cancer, among other cancer types. Or if someone develops the harmful habit of taking drugs or seemingly harmless habits like overeating or spending their time without movement and in isolation, it could worsen their stress.

The same goes for those suffering from lifestyle ailments or caring for those with a chronic illness. Even emotional distress can magnify the effect of stress. The worsened feelings can have a direct impact on stress and cancer. Therefore it is crucial to maintain healthy habits on a consistent level.



How Can Stress Affect Those Already with Cancer?

There are no conclusive studies that show that stress has a direct result on cancer and limited studies that prove that stress can have an indirect effect on cancer. But a handful of studies carried out on mice show that stress can affect those persons already tackling cancer. The studies entailed mice with pancreatic cancer exposed to chronic stress.

The other study included mice with human tumours kept in confinement and separated from fellow mice. In both sets of experiments, the result was the growth and multiplication of the existing tumours called metastasis. Stress did activate the tumour receptors and multiplied them.

So, if a person already dealing with cancer undergoes psychological distress, the chances of their survival rate can become lower. It could also be that cancer is the result of a genetic or inherited risk factor and not because of any exposure to chronic stress.



What Are Some Ways to Manage Stress?

Even though stress does not directly cause cancer, it has the ability to wreak havoc through other persisting and uncomfortable diseases. The only way to beat stress is to not just treat the symptoms but to get to the exact root cause of the stress. Some of the best and time-tested ways to manage stress include:

  • Maintaining a nutrient-rich diet

  • Avoiding fad or crash diets

  • Supplementing yourself if necessary

  • Getting enough exercise and daily movement

  • Getting enough sleep at the same time

  • Working at a job you love and don’t just tolerate

  • Incorporating relaxation and breathing techniques

  • Enjoying a hobby or spending time in leisure

  • Processing emotions through therapy, journaling, or social interaction

These are some of the emotional and physical steps you can take to reduce stress. However, if you don’t want to let stress get the better of you and your finances and want to stay prepared in the face of life-threatening diseases like cancer, it is wise to get a life insurance policy.

A life policy, especially a Tata AIA life insurance plan, can give you the necessary financial support needed to get through many stress-related diseases like cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and others. You can buy the life policy online or offline.

However, it is prudent to get an online life insurance plan because of the benefits it offers. An online life insurance plan is comprehensive, customisable, and discounted. It can also keep you safe from unauthorised life insurance agents.



To Conclude

Stress has always existed and can never be 100% eliminated from our lives. It is a natural, biological response to life’s unforeseeable nature. However, too much of anything is harmful – the same goes for stress. The prevalence of stress-related diseases was uncommon in the previous generations, at least till they were 40-50 years of age. But in recent years, people in their mid-30s and even mid-20s have started developing recurrent, acute, or chronic ailments. However, there is no reason to be worried about stress causing cancer if you maintain a healthy lifestyle and steer away from harmful habits.

L&C/Advt/2022/Jul/1543

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A joint venture between Tata Sons Pvt. Ltd. and AIA Group Ltd. (AIA),  Tata AIA Life Insurance  is one of the leading life insurance providers in India. We post everything you need to know about life insurance, tax savings and a variety of lateral topics such as savings and investments in this space. You can access and read a host of different blogs, articles and pages at the Tata AIA Life Insurance Knowledge Center or get in touch with us with any queries or questions!

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