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Chronic Stress May Raise Skin Cancer Risk

Sped development of tumors in mice exposed to UV light

MONDAY, Dec. 13, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Chronic stress may increase the risk of skin cancer in those at high risk for the disease, according to a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

The study found that mice exposed to stress and to cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) light developed skin cancer in less than half the time as mice that weren't stressed. The research appears in the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The researchers subjected 40 mice to stress by exposing them to the scent of fox urine. The mice also received large amounts of UV light. One of the mice developed a skin tumor within eight weeks of testing. Non-stressed mice exposed to UV light began developing tumors 13 weeks later.

After 21 weeks of testing, 14 of the 40 stressed mice had at least one tumor, compared with two of the non-stressed mice.

"There's a lot of evidence pointing to the negative effects of chronic stress, which dampens our immune system and impacts various aspects of our health," study director Dr. Francisco Tausk, an associate professor of dermatology, said in a prepared statement.

"But, to help create solid treatment strategies, we need a better understanding of the mechanisms of how stressors affect skin cancer development," he said.

If these findings in mice prove relevant in humans, stress-reducing activities such as yoga and meditation may help people at high risk for cancer, the researchers suggested.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about skin cancer prevention.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, Dec. 8, 2004
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