Friday, 27 January 2012

Me and Bob: Did I get breast cancer because of stress, adrenaline and diabetes! The research around this …

I have always had this feeling that the stress I have gone through in last five years or so may have contributed to one of the reasons why I got breast cancer.  Think of all that Adeline running through my body for many years - where did it go? It seemed more than coincident that once I got away from my stressful situation got through the depression and was just getting to a place where I was sorting out my life that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Of course I probably had it for a while not knowing and on hindsight there were other signs that things were not quite right with me health wise before diagnosis– I had begun to have cramps in my muscles which I hadn’t followed up, feeling more tired than I should have done and lacked energy.  You should have seen me try Chi Che – I couldn’t relax enough was uncoordinated and just couldn’t do it - LOL!

 Jackie  Roberge  a healing coach (Visit Blog at: says  Yes, almost all the clients I have coached (most of them breast cancer patients) say they had stressful events leading up to their cancer.  Divorce, a difficult job situation, family issues etc.  Long term stress does weaken the immune system and as you know a cancer tumour takes years to develop.  It often happens that when someone finally slows down something hits them, the adrenaline rush is over and the body is vulnerable because it is not used to relaxing. If you think of the body's relaxation response (which helps flush out the accumulated stress hormones) like a muscle, it is a muscle that has not been used and therefore is weak.”
Then Mark Selawry @MSBreastCancer (from a more medical background and a partner with breast cancer – hoping to become a coach) asked me the question that which I hadn’t considered before - had I thought about the link from diabetes to breast cancer?

Not that I can do anything about having breast cancer now, but it may help me and others in a way to look at their health in a different way and find steps to take in the future to  prevent the cancer coming back - So what is the view out there on the worldwide web?
Basically there is no real consensus that stress increases a person’s susceptibility to cancer.  Scientists do know however that psychological stress can affect the immune system, the body’s defence against infection and disease.

So here is some more science! 
Psychological stress refers to the emotional and physiological reactions experienced when an individual confronts a situation in which the demands go beyond their coping resources. Examples of stressful situations are marital problems, death of a loved one, abuse, health problems, and financial crises.  To be honest most of us goes through any of these circumstances in our life time, so is it the way we react and cope to the stress that matters?

The body responds to stress by releasing stress hormones, such as epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and cortisol (also called hydrocortisone). The body produces these stress hormones to help a person react to a situation with more speed and strength. Stress hormones increase blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. Small amounts of stress are believed to be beneficial, but chronic (persisting or progressing over a long period of time) high levels of stress are thought to be harmful. Stress that is chronic can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, and various other illnesses. Stress also can lead to unhealthy behaviours, such as overeating, smoking, or abusing drugs or alcohol, that may affect cancer risk.
Studies done over the past 30 years that examined the relationship between psychological factors, including stress, and cancer risk have produced conflicting results. Although the results of some studies have indicated a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer, a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven.

Evidence from both animal and human studies suggests that chronic stress weakens a person’s immune system, which in turn may affect the incidence of virus-associated cancers, such as Kaposi sarcoma and some lymphomas  and more recent research with animal models (animals with a disease that is similar to or the same as a disease in humans) suggests that the body’s neuroendocrine response (release of hormones into the blood in response to stimulation of the nervous system) can directly alter important processes in cells that help protect against the formation of cancer, such as DNA repair and the regulation of cell growth.
Every day, our bodies are exposed to cancer-causing agents in the air, food and water we’re exposed to. Typically, our immune system recognizes those abnormal cells and kills them before they produce a tumour. There are three important things that can happen to prevent cancer from developing — the immune system can prevent the agents from invading in the first place, DNA can repair the abnormal cells or killer T-cells can kill off cancer cells.
So there may be a tenuous connection between stress, the immune system and cancer after all? Especially if stress decreases the body’s ability to fight disease, it loses the ability to kill cancer cells.

Mark Selawry @MSBreastCancer  says
Immune system: Chronic inflammation makes our immune system less effective in attacking diseases. We have only so much "immune" capacity based on the number of white blood cells such as lymphocytes, nutriphils, macrophages, NK cells, and what have you. These are like an army directed to defend the body against an attack. This means other diseases can develop. Cancer is nothing more than our own cells dividing uncontrollably. EVERYBODY has cancer cells in them every day. The difference between those developing solid tumours and others is that, normally, our body detects these "rogue cells" and kills them. With a weakened immune system, our internal soldiers can't cope with the enemy, and become overwhelmed.”

Part of the reason stress may be linked to cancer, Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., (assistant professor of behavioural sciences at the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center) said, is simply that when people are under pressure they make poor choices — they begin smoking, stop exercising, start eating unhealthy foods — but in his studies he also did say of the people he had studied all had experienced traumatic life events or losses in previous  years  and had significantly higher rates in particular of breast cancer.
This does get confusing!

So is there link to cancer through adrenaline?  Another study has shown that although it is commonly assumed that too much adrenaline (epinephrine) leads to cancer, the reverse is true. People with cancer possess virtually no adrenaline in their cells. Instead, it has been discovered, the cells of cancer victims are overloaded with insulin and too much sugar.  Now this is interesting especially looking at diabetes!
 Science bit again - there is lots of it!

When bombarded by stress, which requires a constant pumping out of adrenaline, the body ultimately becomes exhausted and is unable to process adrenaline. This causes the cells to fill up with sugar which, in turn, results in two outcomes: fermentation, and very rapid cell division. These two processes are virtually descriptive of cancer, an anaerobic (without oxygen) process that relies on fermentation, not oxidation.
 Another factor is a diet laden with high-sugar foods.  If this study is correct then implications are not only regarding the role of stress in the onset of cancer, but also the part played by a high glycaemic, processed diet. The high GI diet is turning out to be the major culprit in much modern-day degenerative illness. As French doctor Michel Montignac found, a diet laden with foods that transform quickly into sugar overwhelms the body with insulin, and leads to diabetes, heart problems and all manner of other degenerative disease. Removing high glycaemic-index foods from the diet often normalises cholesterol levels

Mark Selawry @MSBreastCancer  says
Acid: Chronic inflammation also leads to an acidic pH in the body, which not only renders our immune system less able, but also creates a perfect environment for solid tumours and bacteria to thrive. Tumours are fed anaerobically, without oxygen, primarily by sugar. This is why too much sugar and carbs are considered "inflammatory". Stress, by the way, also creates an acid state in the body because of the hormone cortisol released, which competes with other "good" hormones (including the estradiols mentioned below). How do we know sugar feeds cancer? Because cancer has 20x more sugar receptors than normal cells. The way doctors test for metastasis is by giving people a PET (Positive Emission Tomography) exam, where a patient gets a SUGAR solution with a radio isotope, which concentrates in the tumours (because they gobble it up). Although most oncologists are well aware of how PET exams work, very few will ever ask a patient to cut back on sugar intake.”

Breast tissue contains a very dense supply of sympathetic nerves and is heavily exposed to adrenaline during times of stress.  It was first discovered by Canadian scientists that breast cancer cells do express receptors for norepinephrine which is released when one is stressed.  When these scientists carried out a series of laboratory experiments, they found that norepinephrine significantly increased the growth of breast cancer cells and increased their ability to spread to other parts of the body.
When faced with a major trauma, Stress hormone cortisol levels remain at high levels and skyrocket directly suppressing immune system, whose job it is to fight cancer cells that exist in every human body.  People in high stress generally mean a person cannot produce enough melatonin during deep sleep and cannot sleep well.  Cancer cell growth inhibited by Melatonin. This means are when people unable cope with stress, the cancer cells are now free to multiply.  Adrenaline are also in high levels initially but are then depleted and drained overtime.  For cancer personality this a bad news.

Cancer personality – what is that!!  I read an interesting study on this and will put it one of my next blogs – will open your eyes and perhaps make you a little angry and emotional – like it did me!
 One of the functions of adrenaline is for transporting sugar away from cells. The body become acidic when too much sugar in cells in the body.  This means normal body cells low of oxygen and cannot breathe properly. As demonstrated by Nobel  prize winner Otto Warburg, cancer cells grow well in a low oxygen state. Cancer cells also thrive on sugar to fulfil their energy needs. Put simply , high stress causes a high levels of cortisol that suppress immune system and depletion of adrenaline leads to low oxygen for body cells and too much sugar in the body resulting a good environment for cancer cells to grow in your body.

Cancer occurs at the cellular level. And there are a number of factors that create stress on the body's cells, causing them to become (1) depleted of adrenaline, (2) high in sugar and (3) low in oxygen, where they are more prone to mutate and become cancerous. The higher the sugar content of the cell caused by a depletion of adrenaline, and the lower the oxygen content, the greater the likelihood of normal cells mutating and becoming cancerous.
 In the vast majority of those with cancer, there exists both a combination of psychological as well as physiological stresses that have contributed to the body's cells becoming depleted of adrenaline, high in sugar and low in oxygen, causing them to mutate and become cancerous.  The factors that contribute to a normal cell becoming depleted of adrenaline, high in sugar and low in oxygen include (and are not limited to): Poor nutrition, Chemicals, Toxins, EMF Radiation, Parasites, Liver / Colon / Kidney disease, Lack of Exercise, etc.,  and such stresses as (and are not limited to): Inescapable Shock, Repressed Feelings, Depression, Isolation, Poor Sleep, Emotional Trauma, External Conflict, etc.

So for me it seems that having Type 1 diabetes, high stress and my adrenaline being depleted may have all been contributing factors to getting breast cancer!  So are there studies that show a positive link to breast cancer and diabetes?
For years, scientists have looked at a possible link between breast cancer and diabetes. It has been suggested that high levels of insulin may increase the risk of breast cancer. However, many factors, such as obesity increase the risk for both breast cancer and diabetes, so it has been difficult for scientists to discover whether diabetes itself is the issue. Still, diabetes research shows that women with diabetes have a 20% higher risk of breast cancer than women without diabetes.

One recent study suggests that high blood sugar increases the risk of breast cancer even among pre-menopausal women. Significant weight gain (more than 55 pounds since age 18, or 22 pounds after menopause) can also increase risk of breast can “Having a high insulin level has been shown to have some growth effect on breast cancer cells,” said Farrar and diabetics' changes in insulin and blood sugar levels could make it easier for breast tumours to grow, researchers hypothesize.
Reports also state that up to four years after a diabetes diagnosis, women of any age had a 37 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer particularly in Type 2 diabetics, he said. Olsson also found a link between abnormally low levels of blood lipids or fats, mostly cholesterol, and a 25 percent higher risk of breast cancer. Women with higher cholesterol levels had a lower risk, he found.  Much more research has to be done.

Wow trying to filter all the information out there is not as easy as it seems especially being a lay person and no expert.  I hope that you haven’t found this all too technical and boring!  My next blogs are going to look at the cancer personality (!), nutrition, the research around of stress busters for cancer patients – again quoting Jackie Roberge, and Mark Selawry and introducing guest blogger David Haas - and my New Year resolutions round all of this!   
I would be extremely interested to hear from other bloggers on their take on this as well – please do tweet me and I will give you my contact details.
And finally here are some knowledge quotes so don’t judge me too harshly for such a long blog this time round!

The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.
Frank Herbert (1920 - 1986)

 Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.
Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931), The Voice of the Master

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.
Margaret Fuller (1810 - 1850)

 To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.
Olin Miller

 Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.
Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784), quoted in Boswell's

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