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September 25, 2020  
UTERINE NEWS: Feature Story

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  • Stress, Breasts and Fibroids

    Stress, Breasts and Fibroids

    February 20, 2007

    By: Shelagh McNally for Uterus1

    The debate is enough to stress you out. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal linked high stress levels with lower risk of breast cancer. However, high levels of stress have also been linked to fibroids.
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    Stress facts
  • Millions of Americans suffer from stress each year.
  • Three out of four people say they experience high stress at least twice a month.
  • Stress can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and it can compromise the immune system.
  • One fourth of all the drugs prescribed in the United States go to the treatment of stress.

    Tips on handling stress from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  • Focus on the problem, task or job to be solved rather than on feeling stressed
  • Break down the stress to find out exactly is overwhelming you
  • Be self-rewarding and supportive
  • Analyze and change dysfunctional thinking
  • Eat properly and exercise to ease tension

  • The study conducted by Danish researchers at Copenhagen’s National Institute of Public Health studied the lives of more than 6,500 women over a period of 18 years. At the start of the study researchers determined what level of stress the women experienced in their daily lives and classified the results into low, medium and high levels. Their definition of stress included tension, nervousness, impatience, anxiety, or sleeplessness while other factors such as childbirth and menopause were also considered.

    During the study, 251 women were diagnosed with first-time breast cancer and these were women who reported low levels of stress. Researchers found that women reporting high levels of stress were 40 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. In fact, for every increased level of stress, women were 8 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. One theory developed from the study is that sustained levels of high stress may affect levels of estrogen, helping them to reduce breast cancer.

    High stress levels also produce the hormone cortisol, which boosts estrogen levels but suppresses progesterone. Most fibroids already have high estrogen concentrations with low levels of progesterone, and fibroid sufferers usually benefit from a higher level of progesterone since it prohibits the growth of fibroids.

    So do we need to sacrifice one for the other? Not necessarily. The secret may lie in our attitude and approach to stress. Good stress has been proven to stimulate our immune system and gets us motivated. Unfortunately, opinions as to what constitutes good and bas stress vary widely. New studies are suggesting that we can control whether stress is good or bad.

    Two new studies from the University of Western Ontario in Canada found that dysfunctional attitudes such as anxiety or worry increased the amount of harm created by stress. Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor confirmed these findings after studying 6,814 men and women between ages 45 and 84. Those with a negative attitude suffered more from the effects of stress and took longer to recover from their stress-induced illnesses.

    No one can avoid stress – but we can foster a confident attitude that helps us handle stress and turn our challenges into life-affirming experiences. So take a deep breath and relax.

    Last updated: 20-Feb-07

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