A study conducted at Wake Forest University has found that the “fight or flight” stress hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) may contribute to the development of cancer and cause cancer cells to resist treatment. Epinephrine is found to be elevated in those suffering from depression.
Epinephrine is produced by the adrenal glands. When we are in a stressful situation, our levels of epinephrine are increased and they can continuously be elevated during continual stess and depression.
Back in April 2007, a report was published that scientists from Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that epinephrine causes changes in prostate and breast cancer cells that may make them resistant to cell death.
George Kulik, DVM, PhD, an assistant professor of cancer biology adn senior researcher on the project said, “These data imply that emotional stress may contribute to the development of cancer and may also reduce the effectiveness of cancer treatments”.
Even though a link between stress and cancer has been suggested, studies in large groups of people have been mixed. There is currently no evidence that stress DIRECTLY changes cancer cells.
While studying prostate and breast cancer cells, Kulik and other researchers found that the protein BAD that causes cell death becomes inactive when cancer cells are exposed to epinephrine.
Kulik is now studying blood samples of prostate cancer patients to determine if there is a link between levels of stress hormones and severity of disease. They have also started studying the effects of epinephrine in mice with prostate cancer.