PHILADELPHIA Young mice that experienced the psychosocial stress of prolonged separation from their mothers had a higher incidence and faster onset of breast tumors compared with young mice who did not experience this stressful life event. Specifically, neonatal mice separated from their mothers for a prolonged period of time developed mammary tumors twice as fast as mice that experienced short or no maternal separation.
The results of this study, conducted by Leslie Kerr, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and psychology at Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, and colleagues, add to the increasing amount of research examining the effects of stress and other social experiences on cancer development. Much of this research has been published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
"So far, we have not really understood, or really sifted through and found factors in the environment that cause a predisposition to the development of breast cancer, or any cancers," Kerr said. "For example, how does the environment or experiences of an animal, including humans, affect physiological function and how might that influence risk for developing breast cancer?"
Examining environmental effects related to breast cancer development is of increased interest because, like the brain, breast tissue develops postnatally. This means that changes in developmental environment including changes in hormonal activity may increase an animal's risk for developing breast tumors, Kerr said.
Social experiences are one of the keystones of life, according to Kerr. Two other studies published in Cancer Prevention Research within the last year explored whether social isolation- another psychosocial stress-affected breast cancer risk.
"The studies by Conzen et al and Schuler et al compared social housing vs. individual housing and its effect on breast cancer risk," Kerr explained. "Animals are
|Contact: Jeremy Moore|
American Association for Cancer Research