Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Does Stress Cause Cancer? NO.

In today's NYT, Gina Kolata asks what seems to be a tough question (" Is There a Link Between Stress and Cancer?").
A lot of people who get cancer think it was caused by stress.
Only thing is, no one else does.
Ms. Kolata gets good quotes from a number of experts in the field:
"I have no idea, and nobody else does, either," said Barbara Andersen, a psychology professor at Ohio State University who studies stress reduction in cancer patients. "If somebody suggested that they know, I would question them."
"If the question is, Have we established it?, the answer is, Absolutely not," said Sheldon Cohen, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied the role of support groups and stress reduction in cancer.
Barrie Cassileth, chief of the integrative medicine service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center:  "I tell them they did not cause their cancer. Absolutely not."
Dr. Drew Pardoll, director of the cancer immunology program at Johns Hopkins' Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center:  The old idea was that cancers arise every day but the immune system destroys them. Anything that weakens the immune system - stress, for example - could hinder this surveillance. The result would be a cancer that grows large enough to resist the body's effort to heal itself. "Nobody believes that anymore," Dr. Pardoll said.
Dr. Fred Applebaum, director of the clinical research division at the Fred Hutchinson Center, said that he and most other cancer experts believed the theory. But then they looked at mice that were genetically engineered to have no functioning immune systems. "They really don't show a huge increase in the incidence of cancer," Dr. Applebaum said.
James Allison, chairman of the immunology program at Sloan-Kettering:  "I can't rule it out," he said, "but I would be very skeptical."
Several studies reached the same result-- no correlation between stress and cancer.
Gina Kolata is a great reporter, and has a greatest cocktail-rhymed name in the world, but her piece reminds me of papers I've written where I hoped a question would turn out to be interesting but instead had a simple answer that I discovered too close to the deadline to find another topic.  Tough break.

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