A Positive Social Life and Stress Help Cancer


A research out of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center is showing strong evidence that keeping positive, being socially active and having a little stress can be the key to a successful cancer battle.

Researchers performed an experiment that involved mice. Team members injected mice with melanoma and let the tumors grow. After, some mice were placed in a large cage with an “enriched environment" that had running wheels, toys and tubes given limited play activities, which caused mild stress. The other mice were put in ordinary lab cages.

After three weeks researchers were rather surprised to see the difference. “The enriched environment caused a reduction in cancer size by about approximately half in the three weeks," said lead researcher Dr. Matthew During. "Animals' interaction with the environment has a profound influence on the growth of cancer - more than we knew was possible,” he said.


The “enriched” mice had slightly raised levels of stress hormones, but the most remarkable physiological change was noticeably reduced levels of the hormone leptin, known to regulate appetite. Blocking leptin abolished the effects of enrichment, suggesting that the hormone was key to the pathway that led to the anti-cancer effects.

"People tend to think that cancer survivors should avoid stress, but our data suggests that this is not completely true," During. "The anti-cancer effect we observed in this study was not due simply to increased activity by the animals, but rather it was induced by social and physical challenges that are associated with the release of stress hormones from the adrenal gland.

"This is a novel finding," says John Hall, a physiologist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. "I think it's going to stimulate a lot of people to learn more about how enrichment can reduce tumor growth."

“The way we live, and how we live, may well have a much bigger impact on the prognosis of cancer than we recognized previously,” says During. “The team is now working to determine which particular elements of the enriched environment are producing its positive effects, he says.