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Study Suggests Link Between Stress and Aggressive Breast Cancer
Date:9/23/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that black and Hispanic women with breast cancer suffer more stress than white women, and the researchers connected the extra stress to more aggressive tumors.

But, the study authors cautioned that the research is preliminary and doesn't provide insight into whether the women's stress levels already were high before diagnosis, whether the stress levels increased after diagnosis, or whether the increased stress caused the cancer to be more aggressive.

Still, the findings point to one possible -- if unconfirmed -- explanation why breast cancer is generally worse in black and Hispanic women, said study lead author Garth H. Rauscher.

"One possible reason for that, among others, could be differences in the role of stress in influencing the development of breast cancer," said Rauscher, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health.

The researchers studied 989 breast cancer patients who had been recently diagnosed with the disease. Within two to three months after their diagnosis, the women responded to surveys about their levels of stress; the surveys asked about issues such as their levels of loneliness, anxiety and fear.

The investigators also used medical tests to examine the aggressiveness of the women's tumors.

Eleven percent of the 397 white women in the study reached a level of stress that the researchers considered to be elevated, Rauscher said. However, the stress levels were about twice as high for the two minority groups: 24 percent of the 181 Hispanic women and 22 percent of the 411 black women reported elevated stress. (Other minority groups weren't included in the study.)

Rauscher said more research is needed because the study didn't answer how stress might be linked to the aggressiveness of tumors. Did the stress come first? Or the
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