This entry was posted by Saturday, 16 January, 2010
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Oncology: The Role Of Stress

Robert’s amazing.

He’s a good guy. Well informed and smart, good looking, full of energy, kind hearted, and ambitious.

And, believe it or not, he’s the guy who picks up our refuse every week in his antiseptically clean truck.

And he’s bonded with our pink nosed cockapoo, Luna.

Some day, Robert will own a fleet of trucks. Or a fleet of companies.

A couple of weeks ago, he asked MISTER ScienceAintSoBad if stress might be one of the causes of cancer.

“Robert! You can’t just make this stuff UP! Where’s that COME from?”

He looked abashed.

I felt bad.

“I don’t have a source for it,” he said “but it seems possible to me.”

Patronizingly, I explained to him that cancer’s causes are known. Genetics and the environment. EVERYBODY knows this.

But Robert isn’t the type to say things without thinking them through. So I thought about it (after I had made an ass of myself).

Robert giving Luna a biscuit

Isn’t the immune system the front line of defense against cancers, keeping spontaneous cellular mutations at bay? And it IS known that stress effects the immune system.

Damn! Where did I leave my computer?

After grinding Google down to a nub, I could see the basis for Robert’s conclusions and they seemed quite sound. Or, at least, they would have been until recently. However, D DeNardo (University Of California) dug down another layer showing how complicated things really are.

According to our latest understanding, the immune system does try to chomp cancers. But, unfortunately, its clumsy response can be exploited by some cancers for their own purposes.

Best thing I’ve found on the stress/cancer thing’s an article from the New York Times, November, 2005 (so a little dated). It’s by Gina Kolata.

Kolata points out that LOTS of people have come to believe there’s a cancer – stress link. But, after tons of studies, it’s been impossible to prove. So no link. Or, at least, in scientific-ese, “no evidence”.

Which, in science, is the sweet kiss of death.

Science, however, is the ultimate exercise in open mindedness.

Just ask us. We’ll tell you.

So maybe the very next study WILL show a link. Could happen.

For the excellent question, ScienceAintSoBadRating = 10

For my incomplete answer, ScienceAintSoBadRating = Well, I Tried.


  1. Hi, – da best. Keep it going!

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