Stress is either labeled “good” or “bad” depending on the situation. While people usually consider carcinogens as chemicals or inanimate things that affect the body and regulate cancer processes, chronic stress is something that dangerously affects your life and increases your risk of getting cancer. It is important to differentiate the differences between acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress, characterized by sudden onset and short duration of symptoms, can be beneficial in some situations, but can also lead to conditions such as numbness, depersonalization, and event dissociative amnesia. However, the good thing about this stress is that it motivates yourself to study more and harder because you want to achieve a good grade. Acute stress can lead to productivity and give a sense of urgency to all of our tasks, which is crucial to make strides in our everyday life. While acute stress is a good thing, chronic stress is a whole other issue.
Chronic stress is defined as the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period of time in which an individual has little or no control. This chronic stress is deeply involved in the endocrine system, which releases stress-causing hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine that can dysregulate the body. Chronic stress induces cancer by suppressing Type 1 cytokines and protective T cells, while also increasing regulatory/suppressor T cell numbers. It is thought to be in the etiology of many diseases, and has several immunosuppressive effects.
These stresses include financial burdens, being overworked, traumatic experiences, unavailability of health care, family instability, unemployment, and societal pressures. This constant stress can cause people’s health to decline, as their bodies is not able to deal with all of the chronic stress. This increased vulnerability within the body further facilitates different biological mechanisms that can disrupt the homeostasis that occurs in our body. For example, the hormone cortisol is released in response to stress; upon release, cortisol inhibits a process known as anikois, which kills diseased cells and prevents them from spreading. Additionally, stress hormones such as cortisol prevents T-cell proliferation, which dramatically reduces the strength of the immune system.
People deal with stress in different types of ways. Some may be beneficial, but some are deleterious. Often times, people resort to coping strategies such as substance abuse, dropping out of school, neglect, and avoiding all of their responsibilities. This, in turn, increases the body’s susceptibility to cancer causing reagents. However, there are activities such as physical exercise, group therapy, and counseling that can assist people dealing with this adverse stress.
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