A new study suggests there might be a link between psychological stress and the aggressiveness of breast cancer. Researchers say the tumor growth is especially rapid among African American and Hispanic populations.

The study was presented at the fourth annual American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, which ran from Sept. 18-21. According to an AACR press release, researchers looked at 989 recently diagnosed cancer patients, 411 of whom were Black, 397 of whom were White and 181 of whom were Hispanic. Results showed that psychological stress scores were much higher for the Black and Hispanic patients. Said researcher Garth Rauscher, “Those who reported higher levels of stress tended to have more aggressive tumors.”

However, Rauscher cautioned, “It’s not clear what’s driving this association. It may be that the level of stress in these patients’ lives influenced tumor aggressiveness. It may be that being diagnosed with a more aggressive tumor, with a more worrisome diagnosis and more stressful treatments, influenced reports of stress. It may be that both of these are playing a role in the association. We don’t know the answer to that question.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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