Does stress really reduce breast cancer risk in women?

Today's (September 9, 2005) headlines state "Stress May Reduce Women's Risk of Breast Cancer". In our series on stress, we have presented a lot of evidence that stress has a detrimental impact on health. So if true, this would be a first - stress having a beneficial impact on a specific illness risk.

The study being quoted was published in the British Journal of Medicine online on August 15, 2005. In this study, 6689 women were asked about their stress level at the beginning of the study. They were then followed for up to 16 years, during which 251 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. The study finds that women with a high stress level, had a reduced risk (Risk Ratio of 60%) compared to women with low levels of stress. However - the Margin of Error was large - between 37% and 97%. In other words, it is possible that stress almost had no effect at all ("97% Risk Ratio") on the breast cancer incidence. In addition, this is the type of study that led us to believe for a long time, that Hormone Replacement Therapy was beneficial to women (subsequently, it was determined to be detrimental).

Bottom line - while there is no indication to conclude that stress increases the risk for breast cancer, it is premature to conclude that it has any beneficial aspects.

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Last Modification - September 9, 2005