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Sound Slumber May Put Cancer to Rest

Good sleep may help fight off disease, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 1, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A good night's sleep may help you fight cancer, says a Stanford University Medical Center study.

Previous research found that people with cancer who have a strong social support network or who take part in group therapy fare better than people with weaker social support. This new study suggests that a person's sleep/wake cycle may explain how such psychosocial factors can have an impact on cancer.

"Psychosocial factors affect your behavior patterns, such as exercise, what you eat and drink, and your sleep," researcher Dr. David Spiegel says in a news release.

Sleep quality can seriously alter the hormone balance in a person's body. Spiegel and his colleagues say this makes the sleep/wake cycle (circadian rhythm) a good candidate for linking a person's social network to their cancer prognosis.

This can happen in two ways, Spiegel suggests. A disrupted circadian rhythm can cause the body to produce less of a hormone called melatonin, an antioxidant that cleans the body of damaging free-radical compounds. Reduced amounts of melatonin may result in a greater chance that cell DNA will produce cancer-causing mutations.

Disrupted sleep patterns may also affect the hormone cortisol, which normally reaches peak levels at dawn and then declines during the day. Cortisol helps regulate immune system activity, including a group of immune cells that help fight cancer.

The study appears in the October issue of Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

More information

Here's some advice on getting a good night's sleep.

SOURCE: Stanford University Medical Center, news release, Oct. 1, 2003
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