The Hopkins investigators say that if what they are seeing in mice has relevance in man, stress-reducing programs like yoga and meditation may help those at high risk for skin cancer stay healthy longer.
"There's a lot of evidence pointing to the negative effects of chronic stress, which dampens our immune system and impacts various aspects of our health," says Francisco Tausk, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins and director of the study. "But, to help create solid treatment strategies, we need a better understanding of the mechanisms of how stressors affect skin cancer development."
Tausk exposed 40 mice to the scent of fox urine - the mouse equivalent of big-time stress - and large amounts of UV light. The first skin tumor in one of the mice appeared after eight weeks of testing. Mice exposed only to UV light began developing tumors 13 weeks later. By 21 weeks of testing, 14 of the 40 stressed mice had at least one tumor, and two non-stressed mice had tumors. Most tumors were squamous cell skin cancers, also known as non-melanoma cancers, but which have the potential to spread to other parts of the body.
Chronic stress is known to suppress the activity of immune system cells that recognize foreign invading cells and target them for destruction. Acute stress, which is episodic and time-limited, such as parachuting or riding a roller coaster, may have the opposite effect of chronic stress. "Acute st
Contact: Vanessa Wasta
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions