Stress has been linked with cancer in a number of studies. A new research provides further support to the possible association between the two: stress might be promoting the spread of cancer.
Can stress cause cancer? The answer to this question remains an evasive one, in spite of the growing body of research on the subject. The new study takes on a different approach: maybe, cancer is more of a contributor than a cause.
The study, conducted by scientists from Monash University, shows how stress can help cancerous cells spread through the lymphatic system at a more rapid rate. This system normally transports lymph which constitutes a fluid full of white blood cells that are meant to fight infections; however, it also contains cancer cells. Stress might exploit this to the disadvantage of the individual because it enhances activity in the lymphatic system such that the latter can transport cancer cells in a more efficient manner: high stress levels appear to increase the size and number of lymphatic vessels, leading to greater fluid flow. This happens because chronic stress triggers the nervous system to affect lymphatic function, and thus the propagation of cancer cells, explains one of the authors, Caroline Le.
Therefore, controlling the effects of stress might be beneficial to stop the spread of cancer in patients by tackling lymphatic routes. The team of researchers have also suggested ways to do so: for instance, drugs used for high blood pressure can control the activity in the lymphatic vessels such that the spread of cancer can be restricted.