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Social isolation worsens cancer
Date:9/29/2009

Using mice as a model to study human breast cancer, researchers have demonstrated that a negative social environment (in this case, isolation) causes increased tumor growth. The work showsfor the first timethat social isolation is associated with altered gene expression in mouse mammary glands, and that these changes are accompanied by larger tumors.

"This interdisciplinary research illustrates that the social environment, and a social animal's response to that environment, can indeed alter the level of gene expression in a wide variety of tissues, not only the brain," said Suzanne D. Conzen, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study, to be published on September 30, 2009, in Cancer Prevention Research. "This is a novel finding and may begin to explain how the environment affects human susceptibility to other chronic diseases such as central obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, etc."

The research began six years ago when cancer specialist Conzen joined forces with biobehavioral psychologist Martha McClintock, PhD, professor of psychology and founder of the Institute for Mind and Biology at the University of Chicago, who has long been interested in the result of social isolation in aging, to study behavior and cancer in a mouse model.

The University of Chicago scientists took mice that were genetically predisposed to develop mammary gland (breast) cancer and raised them in two environments: in groups of mice and isolated. After the same amount of time, the isolated mice grew larger mammary gland tumors. They were also found to have developed a disrupted stress hormone response.

"I doubted there would be a difference in the growth of the tumors in such a strong model of genetically inherited cancer simply based on chronic stress in their environments, so I was surprised to see a clear, measurable difference both in mammary gland tumor growth and interestingly in
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Contact: Greg Borzo
greg.borzo@uchospitals.edu
773-795-0892
University of Chicago Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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