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Cervical cancer

Cervical Cancer Spreads in Women with Chronic Stress, Weakened Immune Response

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: cervical cancer, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) A high level of stress may hamper the body's ability to fight off human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, placing women at a higher risk of cervical cancer, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center and published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Researchers questioned 106 women about their day-to-day stress over the course of the previous month, as well as any major life events, including divorce or the death of family members, over a longer time period. Seventy-eight of the women had tested positive in a Pap smear for HPV 16, while 28 had received a normal results from the same test.

HPV16 is the virus strain most strongly linked to increased risk of cervical cancer.

The researchers found that women who reported more daily stress had a less effective immune system response to infection than women who reported last stress. There did not appear to be any connection between immune system functioning and major life events, however.

"Women with higher levels of perceived stress were more likely to have an impaired immune response to HPV16," said lead researcher Carolyn Fang. "That means that women who report feeling more stressed could be at greater risk of developing cervical cancer because their immune system can't fight off one of the most common viruses that cause it."

Prior research has shown that a robust immune response to HPV infection significantly lowers the risk of cervical cancer; women whose bodies are able to clear out the virus are less likely to experience the abnormal cell changes that it can cause over the long term. The cell changes are one of the precursors to cervical cancer.

The researchers noted that the current study was not set up to determine whether stress actually caused the depressed immune response, or whether there might be some other reason for the correlation. Previous research, however, has well-established such an effect in other cases.

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