Women with the highest level of stress are the most likely to have estrogen-negative breast cancer, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who presented their research at the American Association for Cancer Research conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities. Scientists surveyed 989 women with breast cancer about their feelings of fear, anxiety, and isolation. Those who identified themselves as having the highest levels of stress were 38 percent more like to have cancers that were estrogen-negative. And they were 18 percent more likely to have high-grade tumors.
Black and Latina women also had higher levels of stress than white women.
In a statement, lead researcher Garth Rauscher, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology, says researchers don't know why stress is associated with estrogen-negative and aggressive cancer:
"It’s not clear what’s driving this association. It may be that the level of stress in these patients’ lives influenced tumor aggressiveness. It may be that being diagnosed with a more aggressive tumor, with a more worrisome diagnosis and more stressful treatments, influenced reports of stress. It may be that both of these are playing a role in the association. We don’t know the answer to that question.”