Mild Stress Fights Melanoma and Colon Cancer

KC Kelly Ph.D.'s picture

New research is showing that living a life that brings mild stress because it is active, physically, mentally and socially can actually help to fight melanoma and colon cancer. Living with low to mild stress, keeping positive, active and social can be the recipe needed to keep cancerous tumors from growing, showed studies in mice. So is stress all that bad? Researchers are saying no.

Matthew During, a researcher from The Ohio State University relayed that the kind of mild stress that helps fight melanoma and colon cancer is not the kind you feel when sitting in traffic or living a hectic work schedule. There is different kind of stress one feels when living a full, positive, busy and happy life. He stated, "A lot of people think stress is bad, but our data show the animals aren't just happy. Antidepressants won't give you the same effect. The goal isn't to minimize stress, but to live a richer life, socially and physically. You want to be challenged. We're really showing that you can't look at a disease like cancer in isolation."

An animal study led researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute which was published in the July 9th issue of journal Cell, showed that when mice were taken out of their cages and given limited play activities in enriched environments, which caused mild stress, they actually thrived and their cancerous tumors shrank in mass by 77 percent and by volume of 43 percent. Some of the mice were completely cured of their cancer after three weeks of living in this kind of environment compared to other mice that lived in cages and without stimuli. The main kinds of cancers studied were melanoma and colon cancer.

The stimuli for the mice living in the large open areas were toys, hiding places and running wheels. They also had the opportunity to interact with each other. During stated, "Animals' interaction with the environment has a profound influence on the growth of cancer -- more than we knew was possible." The study was very clear in showing that living in an environment rich with physical, mental and social stimulation might by itself, be what stops the growth of cancer.

The bottom line that researchers reached was that cancer tumors can stop growing and even shrink when living in an environment that stimulates the nervous-system pathway, called the hypothalamic-sympathoneural-adipocyte (HSA) axis by which the brain talks to fat tissue telling it to stop releasing a hormone, leptin, which when released into the bloodstream accelerates cancer growth.

Researchers and scientists are saying that their next step is to study human cancer growth and reduction for people who live with the mild stress caused from happy, busy and social lives. They have very high hopes that the findings of their mice studies will indeed translate to humans with cancer.

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