Stress may hinder immune response to cancer

Women who are stressed may be less able to fight the virus that causes many cases of cervical cancer, scientists have found.

Certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) increase the risk of developing cervical cancer, which affects around 2,800 people every year in the UK.

Researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Centre in Philadelphia have now found that the body's natural immune response when confronted with the virus may be compromised if the woman suffers from daily stress, reducing her ability to destroy the virus and increasing the likelihood that she will need cancer treatment.

However, there appeared to be no link between past major life events, such as divorce, and the body's response to infection caused by HPV strain 16.

Dr Carolyn Fang commented that she was surprised by this discovery, but that the findings about daily stress "told a different story".

"Women with higher levels of perceived stress were more likely to have an impaired immune response to HPV16," she confirmed.

"That means 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 causes it."


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