Does stress cause cancer? - The University of Sydney

Does stress cause cancer?

14 October 2016

Professor Phyllis Butow will reveal findings from a recent study at her Sydney Science Forum Does Stress Cause Cancer? on Wednesday 19 October.

Professor Phyllis Butow

A number of studies have investigated this question, with mixed results. Some very large studies, which have followed thousands of people over time, have found that stress does increase risk of cancer, while other similar studies have not. In reality, it is likely that a mix of factors influence risk. 

Professor Phyllis Butow, from the University of Sydney's School of Psychology in the Faculty of Science, will reveal the findings from a new Australian study, which involved more than 2,000 women, and examined the link between stress and cancer.

“There is a common belief in the community that stress does cause cancer. People who have cancer look for a reason and often look at the events around their diagnosis time,” said Professor Butow.

“Interestingly, those who haven’t had cancer are more likely to think cancer is genetic, compared to the beliefs of cancer patients.”   

People who have cancer look for a reason and often look at the events around their diagnosis time”
Professor Phyllis Butow

Professor Butow will introduce you to the forms that stress takes and how stress is measured, including the psychological and physiological markers of stress. She will discuss how we can ‘prove’ that stress causes cancer, and how scientists are unravelling the various causes of cancer. 

“There’s lots of scientific debate around stress causing cancer, as there is a theoretical biological plausibility that stress could cause cancer. But does it?”

Find out how previous studies on stress and cancer are biased by patients retrospectively connecting stress to their cancer, and how this new study avoids this bias by being a prospective study – starting with people who don’t have cancer and recording their stress levels through time, and eventual cancer results.

“Our study focused on breast cancer, and recruited women from the kConFab database – the Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for research into Familial Breast cancer. We followed 2,739 women in our study for 15 years, doing extensive measures of the stresses in their lives for each three year period,” said Professor Butow.      

“The results of this longitudinal study are extremely interesting, and actually very reassuring for those with cancer.”  

Discover what this study found on the role that stress plays in causing cancer in this fascinating free public talk. After Professor Butow’s talk, enjoy hands-on activities and demonstrations run by the School of Psychology.

Does Stress Cause Cancer?

You may wonder whether stress can increase your risk of cancer: can stressful life events, such as divorce or conflict at work, result in a serious illness like cancer? At this free talk, Professor Phyllis Butow will reveal the findings of a recent study into this very topic.

Wednesday 19 October 2016
5.45pm - 7.00pm
Eastern Avenue Auditorium, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus, The University of Sydney

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