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Discov Med. 2005 Dec;5(30):520-6.

A biobehavioral perspective of tumor biology.

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Basic and Biobehavioral Research Branch, Behavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Extract: The perspective that cancer may be causally linked to stress has a long history. In 200 AD, Galen proposed that melancholic women were more susceptible to cancer than women who were sanguine. Rigorous examinations of related observations have lagged over the ensuing centuries. More recently, epidemiologic studies have shown that psychologic and social characteristics (e.g., chronic stress and negative life events, social isolation and support, socioeconomic burden, and emotional processes) might be associated with differential cancer incidence, progression, and mortality. The biologic mechanisms (e.g., signaling pathways) that may account for such observations are being discovered through the convergence of relevant molecular, cellular, and clinical data. In this article, we review the clinical and experimental evidence regarding the effects of stress on tumor development, growth, and progression. Within this context, we define "stress" as an external event ("stressor") or perception of such events that engender psychologic and physiologic changes ("stress responses") designed to approach, avoid, or defend against the external event.

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