Chronic stress in women increases risk of cervical cancer
Posted Sep 22 2008 11:03am
Chronic stress may impede the body's ability to fight off the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which places women at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, according to a recent study.
Researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Centre questioned 106 women about everyday stress over a previous month as well as major life events such as divorce or bereavement. 78 women tested positive for HPV 16 after a Pap smear with 28 receiving a normal result.
The HPV 16 virus strain is strongly linked to an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. The study also showed that women with daily stress also had a reduced immune system response to infection but there was no connection between immune system function and major life events.
"Women with higher levels of perceived stress were more likely to have an impaired immune response to HPV16," said lead researcher Carolyn Fang.
"That means that women who report feeling more stressed could be at greater risk of developing cervical cancer because their immune system can't fight off one of the most common viruses that cause it."
Previous studies have shown that a strong immune response to HPV infection lowers the risk of developing cervical cancer significantly. A woman who is able to eradicate the virus is less likely to go through the long-term abnormal cell changes that lead to cervical cancer.
This research was not carried out to determine if stress caused depressed immune response but previous studies have established such an effect in other cases.