Can Stress Really Cause Cancer? Exploring The Connection

Anjali Jaiswal

Anjali Jaiswal
Aug 2023

2 min read
can stress cause cancer

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You might have heard that stress is responsible for many health problems, but can stress cause cancer? The truth is, the proof for this connection isn’t very strong. Some think it’s because of long-lasting frustration, while others point to our immune system.

Back in the 19th century, studies looked at how stress from emotions affected health. They found that people dealing with a lot of stress were more likely to get cancer. However, it’s essential to separate fact from fiction and gain a clear understanding of the relationship between stress and cancer.

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Can Stress Cause Cancer?

Scientists haven’t been able to confirm for sure that stress directly causes cancer. The way your feelings and your body work together is pretty complicated. Stress from your emotions can affect your body, but it’s not always clear how. Some studies suggest a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer.

Stress is when our body or mind feels pressured or tense. It’s a normal thing that happens to everyone, and it can actually be helpful because it makes us stronger. But if we have too much stress, it can cause problems for our body and mind.

For people who have cancer, stress makes things even harder because they’re already dealing with the disease and its treatments. Scientists are looking into whether stress can make the disease worse and how it might do that.

3 Cancer Risk Factors Linked To Stress

Here are three ways stress can make it more likely for you to get cancer:

  1. Weakens Your Immune System: Stress can make your immune system weaker. Your immune system is like your body’s defense team against sickness and diseases, including cancer. When your immune system is weak, some types of cancer might have a better chance to grow.
  1. Messing With Hormones: Stress can change the levels of certain hormones in your body. This could also raise your chances of getting cancer.
  1. Unhealthy Habits: Stress might make you do things that aren’t good for you, like emotional eating, overeating, smoking, or drinking a lot. So, these habits can raise your risk of cancer.

These connections help us understand the potential relationship between stress and cancer risk. It’s important to stay informed and take care of our well-being.

Understanding Different Types Of Stress

Before we explore how stress and cancer are connected, it’s important to know what stress is and the various ways it can show up.

When your brain senses something that might be a threat, it sends signals to your adrenal glands. These glands then release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which start the stress response.

1. Acute Stress: The Short-Term Kind

Acute stress is what usually comes to mind when we think of stress. It happens briefly and is triggered by specific situations. For instance:

  • Slamming your brakes to avoid hitting a car suddenly in front of you.
  • Getting into an argument with a family member or friend.
  • Being stuck in traffic that’s making you late for work.
  • Feeling pressure to meet a tight deadline.

Acute stress can make your body react in different ways, such as:

  • Making your heart beat faster.
  • Raising your blood pressure.
  • Making you breathe quickly.
  • Tensing up your muscles.
  • Making you sweat more.

These effects usually go away once the stressful situation ends.

2. Chronic Stress: The Long-Term Struggle

Chronic stress is when your stress response keeps going on for a long time. It can wear you out both physically and emotionally. Some things that can lead to chronic stress include:

  • Living in a difficult or abusive home situation.
  • Disliking your job a lot.
  • Having money problems often.
  • Dealing with a long-lasting illness or taking care of someone who’s sick.

Compared to short-term stress, chronic stress can have lasting effects on your body and how you feel. It can cause problems such as:

  • Heart disease.
  • Issues with digestion.
  • Feeling anxious or depressed.
  • Gaining weight.
  • Having trouble sleeping.
  • Finding it hard to concentrate or remember things.
  • Having trouble having babies.
  • Having a weaker immune system.

Remember, stress isn’t just in your head – it can affect your whole body. It’s important to learn how to handle stress in a healthy way to keep your mind and body well.

What Research Tells Us About Stress And Cancer

Researchers are actively studying the connection between stress and cancer, and here are some key findings:

  1. Work Stress And Cancer Risk: A review in 2013 looked at 12 studies about work-related stress and cancer risk. Surprisingly, they didn’t find a clear link between work stress and the overall risk of getting cancer. This means that stress from your job might not be directly tied to your chances of developing cancer.
  1. Specific Cancers And Work Stress: The same review also explored whether work stress was connected to specific types of cancer like prostate, lung, and breast cancer. The results showed that work stress didn’t seem to increase the likelihood of these specific cancers.
  1. Job Stress And Prostate Cancer: Hence, In 2017, a study focused on men who had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It discovered that men who felt stressed at their workplace were more likely to develop prostate cancer.
  1. Breast Cancer And Stress: In 2016, a big study involving 106,000 women looked into whether frequent stress or tough life events influenced the risk of breast cancer. The study didn’t find strong evidence that stress directly led to higher chances of getting breast cancer.

The research results are a bit mixed. Some studies suggest a connection between certain types of stress and cancer risk, while others don’t find a strong link. Overall, there’s still no definite proof that stress causes cancer or significantly raises the risk. Researchers are continuing to study this area to get a clearer picture.

How Does Stress Increase Risk Factors For Cancer?

The relationship between our mind and body is tricky. While there’s no clear proof that stress directly causes cancer, studies do show that stress can increase the chances of getting cancer. Here are the five main reasons why:

How Does Stress Increase Risk Factors For Cancer?
  1. Hormonal Changes: Stress can mess with the levels of certain hormones in our body, which could raise the risk of cancer.
  1. Weak Immune System: Stress can weaken our immune system, the body’s defense against diseases. This weakened defense might make us more prone to developing cancer.
  1. Unhealthy Eating: Stress can mess up our eating habits. It might make us eat too much or too little. Stress hormones can trick our brains into thinking we need more food, especially sugary or fatty stuff, leading to weight gain. This extra weight can increase cancer risk.
  1. Smoking And Drinking: Stress often pushes people towards bad habits like smoking and drinking. These habits are linked to cancers in places like the lungs, liver, and also colon.
  1. Lack Of Sleep: Stress can make it hard to sleep well. And not getting enough sleep can make stress even worse. So, this cycle can raise stress hormone levels, which might boost the risk of certain cancers.

So, while stress isn’t the direct cause of cancer, it can affect our body in ways that might make cancer more likely. It’s important to manage stress and take care of our overall health.

Tips For Reducing Stress And Taking Care Of Your Well-being

Stress can impact your overall health, regardless of its direct connection to cancer. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to reduce stress and protect your physical and emotional well-being:

1. Prioritize And Set Boundaries

  • Determine what tasks need immediate attention and which ones can wait. Overextending yourself can lead to unnecessary stress.
  • Additionally learn to decline new tasks if you’re already feeling overwhelmed. Setting boundaries helps prevent additional stressors.

2. Nurture Relationships

  • Cultivate strong connections with your loved ones. Spending time with family and friends provides emotional support and also a sense of belonging.

3. Stay Physically Active

  • Engage in regular exercise to keep your body fit and healthy. 
  • Physical activity is not only beneficial for your physical health but can also reduce stress and anxiety.

4. Practice Relaxation Techniques

  • Explore relaxation methods like yoga, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation. 
  • So, these techniques help calm your mind and promote relaxation.

5. Prioritize Sleep

  • Aim for 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night. 
  • The best time to sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining your overall well-being and managing stress.

6. Maintain A Healthy Diet

  • Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. 
  • Proper nutrition supports your body’s resilience to stress.

7. Manage Time Effectively

  • Organize your schedule to allocate time for work, leisure, and self-care. 
  • Proper time management reduces the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed.

8. Engage In Enjoyable Activities

  • Pursue hobbies and activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Engaging in things you love can act as a buffer against stress.

9. Seek Social Support

  • Connect with friends, family, or support groups. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others can provide comfort and understanding.

10. Limit Exposure To Stressors

  • Identify stress triggers and try to limit your exposure to them. 
  • This could involve setting boundaries with toxic relationships or managing your workload more effectively.

11. Practice Mindfulness

  • Cultivate mindfulness through practices like mindfulness meditation. 
  • Being present at the moment can help reduce stress and increase your overall well-being.

12. Consider Professional Help

  • So, If you find yourself struggling to manage stress on your own, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. 
  • They can offer guidance and strategies tailored to your needs.

Remember that taking care of your mental health and physical health is crucial, irrespective of the direct link between stress and cancer. By incorporating these strategies into your life, you can enhance your overall well-being and build resilience to stressors.

Healthy Diet Plan To Cure Stress Cause Cancer 

Eating a balanced diet can aid in managing stress and potentially reducing the risk of cancer. Here’s a simple diet plan to consider:

MealFood Options
BreakfastBowl of oatmeal with berries and a sprinkle of nuts.
A glass of fresh fruit juice or a piece of whole fruit.
LunchColorful salad with leafy greens, veggies, lean protein (chicken, beans, or tofu), and a light vinaigrette dressing .
Whole grain roll or slice of whole wheat bread.
SnackColorful salad with leafy greens, veggies, lean protein (chicken, beans, or tofu), and a light vinaigrette dressing.
Whole grain roll or slice of whole wheat bread.
DinnerGrilled fish or lean meat with steamed vegetables.
A portion of quinoa or brown rice.
Evening SnackGreek yogurt with honey and banana slices.
Herbal tea.
Remember, a balanced diet is part of a holistic approach to managing stress and also promoting well-being. Consult a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations based on your individual needs.

Key Points:

  1. Colorful Variety: Fill your plate with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and food rich in antioxidants that support your body’s stress response and overall health.
  1. Whole Grains: Prioritize whole grains like oats, quinoa, and whole wheat. They provide sustained energy and are beneficial for stress management.
  1. Lean Proteins: Incorporate lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, beans, and tofu. Protein helps maintain muscle health and stabilizes mood.
  1. Healthy Fats: Hence, Include sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These fats support brain health and emotional well-being.
  1. Limit Processed Foods: Minimize processed foods, sugary snacks, and sugary drinks. These can lead to energy crashes and exacerbate stress.
  1. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and also keep your body functioning optimally.
  1. Moderation And Enjoyment: Treat yourself occasionally to your favorite indulgences, but remember to do so in moderation.

A wholesome diet isn’t a direct cure for stress or cancer, but it contributes to your overall well-being. Combined with stress management techniques, exercise, and sufficient sleep, a nourishing diet can aid in promoting a healthy lifestyle. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.

The Bottom Line

Stress is your body’s way of reacting to things it sees as potential problems. There are two types: short-term stress and long-term stress. Having long-term stress might make you more likely to have health issues such as heart disease or feeling really sad.

But when it comes to whether stress causes cancer or not, things are not very clear. Some studies say it could, while others say it might not. Stress might be just one of many things that could lead to cancer. So, while we work to manage stress, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only thing that can cause cancer.

Weight Loss Transformation

Dropped 20kgs in 180 days. A weight-loss diet plan is, however, not about fancy food, or restricted diets, at Fitelo, it’s about your preferences and routine, your likes and dislikes, your schedule, and your medical concerns. We never restrict anyone to enjoy their favorite food. Even our clients do enjoy a lot of cheat meals. So, let’s read out Nidhi’s weight loss transformation and see how we helped her with the same concept.

Top 8 Foods With Hidden Sugar | Weight Loss Tips 

You go to the gym, eat healthily, leave sugar, and do everything right but you are still struggling to lose weight. Well, the answer is hidden sugar in foods that you would not imagine. However, in this video, we share some of the foods/snacks that have hidden sugar that might be causing this.

Fun Fact

Chai aur paratha! Hum Indians ka favorite nashta. Garam garam parathion k sath chai pine ka vese to maza hi kuch aur hai, but do you know consuming tea with paratha can be the biggest health mistake? So, here are 3 reasons why you should never drink tea with meals.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does Stress Cause Cancer?

The degree to which stress directly causes cancer is a subject of ongoing research. While evidence suggests a potential connection between chronic stress and cancer risk, the exact extent remains complex and multifaceted.

What Kind Of Stress Cause Cancer?

Both acute stress, triggered by sudden events, and chronic stress, which persists over time, have been explored in relation to cancer. Chronic stress, due to its prolonged impact on the body, might be more influential in increasing the risk.

What Caused Cancer?

Cancer’s development involves a mix of factors, including genetic predisposition, lifestyle choices (such as smoking, diet, and physical activity), and environmental exposures (like pollutants). Stress is one among several factors that may contribute, albeit indirectly.

Does Stress Cause Cancer Cells To Grow?

While studies suggest stress might affect cancer growth by influencing immune responses and hormones, the direct causative link isn’t firmly established. Stress’s impact on cancer progression is still under investigation.

How Does Stress Affect Cancer Risk?

Stress could weaken the immune system, making the body less capable of fighting cancer cells. Hormonal changes induced by stress might also play a role. However, the exact mechanisms by which stress influences cancer risk require further study.

How To Prevent Stress-Related Cancer Risk?

Effective stress management techniques, such as mindfulness, exercise, adequate sleep, and fostering strong social connections, can collectively contribute to lowering overall stress levels and potentially minimizing associated cancer risk.

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Contact Us Today

Your search to find the right guidance to be a part of all those fat-to-fit stories ends here. So, contact us today if you are looking for a diet plan with cheat meals. Also, we will discuss how we can help you achieve your weight loss goals.


This blog post was written to help you to make healthy and better food choices altogether. So, be aware and take care. The important thing to consider is your own health before starting a diet that is restrictive. Always seek advice from a doctor/dietitian before starting if you have any concerns.

Eat Healthy, Live Healthy. Enjoy a long happy life.

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