Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for
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It is widely acknowledged that stress is not good for our health. Understandably it has an impact on our mental wellbeing, however, it can also manifest as physical problems. And the latest research shows it has links with cancer mortality.
The report, by a team from the Medical College of Georgia in the US, considered the association between allostatic load and the risk of cancer death.
Allostatic load is a term that refers to the “wear and tear on the body,” which accumulates while a person is exposed to repeated or chronic stress.
As part of the research, they retrospectively analysed the data of 41,000 people from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1988 and 2010, and linked it with the National Death Index.
It says: “In fully adjusted models, high allostatic load was associated with a 14 percent increased risk of cancer death among all participants and a 18 percent increased risk of cancer death among non-Hispanic white adults.
“When further stratified by age, high allostatic load was associated with a 80 percent increased risk among all participants; a 95 percent increased risk among non-Hispanic white adults; a two-fold increased risk among non-Hispanic black adults; and a 36 percent increased risk among Hispanic adults.”
The study, which was published in the SSM – Population Health journal, concludes: “Allostatic load, a proxy of cumulative stress as a result of persistent environmental stimuli, is associated with increased risks of cancer mortality.”
In a university release, one of the study’s authors explained more.
Doctor Justin Xavier Moore, epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Cancer Centre, said: “As a response to external stressors, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol, and then once the stress is over, these levels should go back down.
“However, if you have chronic, ongoing psychosocial stressors, that never allow you to ‘come down,’ then that can cause wear and tear on your body at a biological level.”
The researchers found that, even without adjusting for factors such as age, social demographics like race and sex, poverty to income ratio and educational level, those with a high allostatic load were 2.4 times more likely to die from cancer than those with low allostatic loads.
However, Dr Moore emphasised the importance of breaking down the results according to an individual’s background.
“If you’re born into an environment where your opportunities are much different than your white male counterparts, for example being a black female, your life course trajectory involves dealing with more adversity,” he said.
Adjusting for sociodemographic factors such as sex, race and educational level, high allostatic load led to a 21 percent increase in cancer deaths.
When controlling for age, the team found that people with high allostatic load still have a 28 percent increased risk of dying from cancer.
Dr Moore said: “That means that if you were to have two people of the same age, if one of those people had high allostatic load, they are 28 percent more likely to die from cancer.”
And further adjusting the model for other risk factors like whether participants smoked, previously had a heart attack, or been previously diagnosed with cancer or congestive heart failure, led to a 14 percent increase.
According to the NHS, physical symptoms of stress include:
- Headaches or dizziness
- Muscle tension or pain
- Stomach problems
- Chest pain or a faster heartbeat
- Sexual problems.
Mental symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Struggling to make decisions
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Constantly worrying
- Being forgetful.
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