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Stress reduction can help slow the progression of prostate cancer

Chill out – prostate cancer cells thrive on stress

28 January, 2013

Natural Health News — A diagnosis of prostate is a pretty stressful event.

Now a study from researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center indicates that stress is not just an emotional side effect of the diagnosis; it also can reduce the effectiveness of prostate cancer drugs and accelerate the growth of prostate cancer.

The findings are published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The  team tested the effects of behavioural stress in two different mouse models of prostate cancer.

Stress reduces effectiveness of drug therapy

One model used mice that were implanted with human prostate cancer cells and treated with a drug that is currently in clinical trial for prostate cancer treatment. When the mice were kept calm and free of stress, the drug destroyed prostate cancer cells and inhibited tumour growth. However, when the mice were stressed, the cancer cells didn’t die and the drug didn’t work.

In the second model, mice with a genetic predisposition to develop prostate cancer were used. When these mice were repeatedly stressed, the size of prostate tumours increased. When the mice were treated with bicalutamide, a drug currently used to treat prostate cancer, their prostate tumours decreased in size. However, if mice were subjected to repeated stress, the prostate tumours didn’t respond as well to the drug.

According to the researchers epinephrine, a hormone also known as adrenaline, sets off the cellular chain reaction that controls cell death. Considering that prostate cancer diagnosis increases stress and anxiety levels, stress-induced activation of the signalling pathway that turns off the cell death process may lead to a vicious cycle of stress and cancer progression.

Yet in both models in which the mice were given beta-blocker, stress did not promote prostate tumour growth. One of the actions of beta-blockers is to inhibits the activation  epinephrine.

Better ways to destress

Here’s where the researchers thinking goes a bit awry, by suggesting that beta-blockers should be supplied to prostate cancer patients to improve the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies. Beta blockers come with a whole host of adverse effects including fatigue, stomach upset, dizziness as well as depression, shortness of breath and loss of sex drive.

Stress reduction is an important part of any kind of cancer regime – and is really best incorporated in our lifestyle before we get sick.

A study in 2006 have shown for instance that a regime of non-pharmacological stress reduction – including meditation, yoga and Tai Chi exercises – and a plant-based diet were effective in significantly reducing the PSA rate, indicating a reduction in the rate of progression of the prostate cancer.

Similar results were found in a 2011 when diet, physical activity, and stress reduction (in this case meditation) slowed prostate tumour promotion and disease progression.

Lowering levels of other stress hormones

Reducing levels of other stress hormones can be beneficial too. In one 2004 study researchers investigated the relationships between a mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation program for early stage breast and prostate cancer patients and quality of life, mood states, stress symptoms, and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin.

The participants were enrolled in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that incorporated relaxation, meditation, gentle yoga, and daily home practice. After 8 weeks the participants experienced enhanced quality of life and decreased stress symptoms.