backup og meta

Can Chronic Stress Cause Cancer?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Franz Vincent Legazpi · Updated Aug 15, 2022

    Can Chronic Stress Cause Cancer?

    Cancer is the abnormal and rapid growth of cells in the body. There are many factors that contribute to the development of cancer, one of which is stress. But does stress cause cancer? And are there ways to reduce psychological stress and cancer risk? 

    According to the Department of Health, the Philippines has a population of around 110,000,000. And for every 100,000 Filipinos, 189 suffer from cancer.

    What Is Psychological Stress? 

    More research is being done to further study the unique relationship between psychological stress and cancer

    Psychological stress can be caused by unusual or traumatic events, as well as routine activities. It describes what people feel when they are under pressure — be it mental, physical, or emotional. Although it is normal to experience psychological stress, those who experience high levels of psychological stress may develop mental or physical health problems.

    Psychological stress is categorized into two main types: 

    Acute Stress

    A type of stress that only lasts for a short time, with the individual recovering from the stress quickly. It could be caused by sudden reactions like shock.

    Chronic Stress

    This is the most serious and most dangerous kind of stress, because it does not go away. Though stress is normal when responding to day-to-day pressures, it becomes a serious condition when it interferes with your normal functioning. Chronic stress is considered one of the major risk factors for cancer. 

    Does stress cause cancer? It has been shown in many studies that chronic stress can weaken the body and make it more vulnerable to disease, including cancer. 

    Psychological Stress and Cancer: What Are Its Effects on the Body? 

    When it comes to psychological stress and cancer, stress can compromise the body’s immune system slowly.

    In the body, there are immune cells, which fight off foreign bacteria and viruses such that enter the body.

    When a person suffers from chronic stress, the body’s immune cells weaken and fail to fight those bad cells, which leads to different diseases and infections. Chronic stress also triggers hormones that cause cancer cells to grow more rapidly. This increases your chance of developing cancer. 

    When you experience psychological stress, people turn to different coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and emotional eating, among others, which are all unhealthy habits that may increase a person’s susceptibility to cancer and other diseases. 

    Drinking alcohol, most especially, has a negative effect on the body. Alcohol can cause irritation in certain body parts such as the mouth, esophagus, and the liver. Alcohol abuse may lead to liver cancer. 

    Smoking is another significant cancer cause. A single stick of cigarette contains 7,000 toxic chemicals. These chemicals, when inhaled, will damage the respiratory system. These toxic chemicals increase a person’s chance of developing lung cancer.

    Emotional eating or stress eating is a coping mechanism for some people when it comes to dealing with stress. Stress eating leads to weight gain, which increases one’s risk of developing cancer. 

    Cancers of the breast and the bowel are the most common kinds caused by weight gain.

    Some evidence from experimental studies suggests that psychological stress can affect a tumor’s ability to grow and spread. And while there is no strong evidence that stress directly affects cancer outcomes, it may still affect their overall wellbeing. Data suggests that cancer patients feel helpless or hopeless when stress becomes overwhelming.

    When it comes to psychological stress and cancer, it is best to deal with stress and its underlying issues in a healthy way. Consult your doctor on how best to deal with your physical, emotional and psychological concerns. 

    Tips to Cope with Stress and Reduce the Risk of Cancer

    Does stress cause cancer? Psychological stress and cancer are closely linked, especially when it comes to chronic stress.

    Stress can speed up the growth of cancer cells. On the other hand, smoking, alcohol-intake, and weight gain — coping mechanisms for dealing with stress — are examples of factors that might cause cancer indirectly. 

    Suffering from stress may not be totally avoidable, but you can adopt certain measures to lower your risk of developing chronic stress and cancer. 

    can stress cause cancer

    Here are some health tips to better manage stress: 

    • Maintain a healthier lifestyle. 
    • Eat food that will benefit your health such as vegetables and fruits. 
    • Hydrate yourself because water is a good source of many minerals. 
    • Engage in regular physical activities like walking, which can boost your immune system. Exercise also releases hormones that combat the effects of stress on the body. 
    • Meditate or try breathing exercises that can help calm you down. 
    • Undergo screening for distress management or psychological screening. Some experts recommend that cancer patients receive this screening early in their treatment and during critical points over the course of their care. This allows them to receive the psychological help they need from a psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist.
    • Monitor your health and consult your doctor. 

    Psychological stress and cancer are, indeed, related. This is why taking steps to ease and manage stress can greatly impact your overall, future health

    Learn more about cancer, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Franz Vincent Legazpi · Updated Aug 15, 2022

    advertisement iconadvertisement

    Was this article helpful?

    advertisement iconadvertisement
    advertisement iconadvertisement