Does Anxiety Cause Cancer: Find Out What Research Has Proven Lately

In today’s world, it is easy to feel anxious about almost anything. From concerns about the economy and job security to fears of contracting a life-threatening disease such as cancer—it’s natural to worry about the future sometimes. However, does anxiety cause cancer? Or do we have a relationship between chronic stress and cancer?

No, having normal stress or anxiety doesn’t directly increase the risk of cancer. However, some studies show patients with anxiety disorders had an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Moreover, prolonged periods of stress may have an effect on the risk of developing chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

In fact, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), “worrying is an adaptive response with benefits. It alerts us to potential threats, prepares us for potential danger, and helps us take action to prepare for or prevent problems before they occur.”

However, when worry becomes an obsessive thought that causes a person to see danger in any situation and leads them to experience high levels of stress or anxiety on a regular basis, the negative consequences can be significant.

Does anxiety cause cancer? Chronic anxiety in men increases the risk of certain cancers such as prostate cancer

Does Anxiety Cause Cancer?

No, having normal stress or anxiety doesn’t directly increase the risk of cancer. However, some studies show patients with anxiety disorders had an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Moreover, prolonged periods of stress may have an effect on the risk of developing chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

Short-term anxiety or stress according to research does not cause any cancer incidence. However, several studies have shown that chronic anxiety can be a risk factor for the development of cancers, especially in men. A recent study in Taiwan demonstrated that chronic anxiety among other psychological factors can be one of the risk factors for prostate cancer.

In addition, in 2016, a study showed that men who have an anxiety disorder in the severe form have a double likelihood of dying from cancer as compared to people who have no anxiety. The evidence thus links anxiety disorders to cancers in men.

What does the Research Say about Anxiety and Cancer?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a review of studies on the relationship between stress and cancer found that psychological factors—particularly stress—can influence the progression of cancer, but the majority of patients who experience extreme stress never develop cancer.

Some researchers believe that a small percentage of cancers may be caused by stress, but there is little evidence to support this hypothesis. A correlation has so far been seen between anxiety and prostrate cancers in research that is already published.

However, the exact cause of cancer in these situations is not yet known. More research needs to be conducted to show the reasons why anxiety disorders and stress predispose one to cancer if it really does.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion, but when it becomes a heightened and sustained feeling of apprehension, it is considered an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States, affecting about 18% of the population.

There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For most people, anxiety is a temporary feeling that is caused by stress and can be managed with self-care techniques and/or professional help.

However, for some people, anxiety is a more chronic condition that interferes with their ability to function on a day-to-day basis. In extreme cases, anxiety can even become disabling, and in some individuals, it might be a sign of an underlying mental health disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety has several signs and symptoms. Chronic anxiety is known to affect almost every body organ thus leading to different symptoms emanating from different systems in the body. Some of the common anxiety disorders signs and symptoms include:

  • Shaking or trembling
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Feeling like you are “going crazy”
  • Shortness of breath from anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea or abdominal cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Feeling detached from yourself
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling like you might pass out
  • Urinary frequency and urinary incontinence
  • Crying spells
  • Trouble sleeping and insomnia
  • Avoidance of certain situations
  • Feeling detached from others
  • Feeling excessively jumpy or restless

Some of the symptoms are more common than others. You need to talk to your doctor for diagnosis of anxiety disorders.

Cancer Risk Factors: Stress, Chronic Stress, and Anxiety

Diagnosis of a life-threatening disease, such as cancer, can lead to an increased risk of anxiety. It is normal for people dealing with a life-threatening illness to experience periods of worry, fear, or anxiety. On the other hand, anxiety can worsen the cancer state of your body.

Studies have shown that anxiety occurs in people with a wide range of medical conditions, including those with cancer. Some people experience extreme anxiety when diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, while others experience a less severe, yet still troublesome, level of anxiety.

Stress is the body’s response to any demand placed upon it. When the body is under stress, the adrenal glands release hormones that cause physical and emotional changes.

Emotional causes of cancer

Negative emotions like anger, guilt, or resentment can also increase the risk of disease. People who report a higher frequency of negative emotions have been shown to have an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

People who frequently experience negative emotions are also more likely to engage in harmful behaviors, such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, that increase cancer risk.

Some of the emotional causes of cancer include depression, stress, drug abuse, and others. Emotional disorders may alter the way we eat, drink, live life, and also increase the risk of developing chronic diseases including cancer.

Does stress cause cancer?

Yes, in certain situations, there is a relationship between stress and cancer. Chronic stress affects the chemical composition in the body and keeps you in a constant fight-or-flight mode which can lead to inflammation and in other instances increase the risk of developing cancers.

Examples of stress related to cancer include exams for medical school students during the same time they are being treated for Hodgkin lymphoma, severe financial problems, or situations that cause feelings of isolation, such as caring for a sick spouse.

Stressful events that place a heavy psychological burden on a person can increase their risk of developing certain types of cancer. For example, people who are grieving the loss of a loved one may have an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers, such as colorectal cancer, breast cancer, or pancreatic cancer.

Can stress cause Breast cancer?

Yes, in certain situations, there is a relationship between stress and cancer. Breast cancer is a disease that is often associated with a high level of anxiety among patients.

Studies have shown that breast cancer patients with a high level of stress are more likely to experience a relapse of their disease, have a poorer quality of life, and die from their disease than patients with a lower level of stress.

Many breast cancer patients experience a high level of stress and anxiety, particularly during the first few years after diagnosis. It is important for breast cancer patients to learn techniques to manage their stress, such as meditation and massage.

Can stress cause Colon cancer?

Yes, in certain situations, there is a relationship between stress and cancer. Many researchers believe that psychological factors, including stress, can influence the development of colorectal cancer.

Studies have shown that people who experience high levels of stress have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.

People who experience higher levels of stress are also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, that increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

Does Depression Cause Cancer?

Yes, in certain situations, there is a relationship between stress and cancer. People who experience long-term psychological distress, such as long-term feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety, are more likely to develop certain types of cancer.

People who experience severe feelings of depression are also at a higher risk of developing cancer. It is among the several psychological factors that increase the risk of developing cancer.

The evidence is however not clear on how depression causes cancer. But relations between cancer progression and depression are also quite profound.

Conclusion

Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million U.S. adults, and they are very common, particularly among young people. It is important to note that while stress and anxiety are related, they are different concepts. Stress is a normal reaction that prepares the body to respond to a situation.

It is a healthy response to demands being placed on a person. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a feeling of unease that is often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as a racing heart, shakiness, sweating, or tense muscles.

While anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations and is often helpful, it becomes a disorder when it interferes with a person’s ability to function and enjoy their life. If you are experiencing anxiety, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.

People who have an anxiety disorder feel anxious almost all the time, to the point where their daily activities are impacted. Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million U.S. adults or 18% of the population. Women are more likely to have an anxiety disorder than men, and the prevalence of anxiety increases with age. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder, affecting children and adolescents as well as adults.

Citations:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3584040/

https://patient.info/news-and-features/can-anxiety-cause-cancer

Dr. David Barlow

David is a well-known researcher and author in the anxiety disorders area with extensive research on their etiology, nature, and treatment. He started the site to share his real-life experiences on the management of anxiety disorders with successful diagnosis and treatment being his motivation to write or review the content on this site.