Stress hormones could lead to faster spreading cancer

By • Published: January 10th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

There’s a reason the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is so popular.

Stress affects the health of nearly half of all adults, and studies have linked it to heart disease, auto accidents and lung problems.

Now, Ohio State University researchers say stress may also spur certain cancers to spread faster.

Previous studies have shown that stress hormones can cause ovarian cancer cells to grow. To find out how the hormones affect other cancer cells, researchers added the stress hormone norepinephrine [nor-ep-uh-nef-rin] to cells from a head and neck cancer.

Hormones work by attaching to specific spots on cells called receptors. Because hormones are only meant to attach to certain receptors, they don’t work on every cell. Once attached to the correct receptor, hormones spur the cell to perform certain tasks.

When norepinephrine attaches to a tumor cell, the hormone prods it to produce three substances designed to help cancer spread. Two join to form a chemical wrecking ball, busting through the tissue that surrounds the tumor like a gate. Once that gate is broken, the cancer can spread into the bloodstream, carrying tumor cells to other parts of the body.

The third substance helps build new blood vessels to feed the growing cancer cells, like a twenty-four-hour grocery store.

The researchers say targeting the hormone’s receptors could lead to treatments that slow the spread of cancer.

As for stress, doctors say reducing it won’t cure cancer, but it could lead to a healthier and happier you.

Who doesn’t want that?