August 20, 1997

Study Examines Stress—Immune System Links in Women With Breast Cancer

JAMA. 1997;278(7):534. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550070026013

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MEDICAL students, elderly spouses of patients with Alzheimer disease, and rodents usually have little or nothing in common. But in studies over the past decade, these disparate groups have shown that psychological stress can affect the immune system.

Now, in a slightly different take on the same theme, newer studies are beginning to show that psychological interventions may give an immune boost to patients coping with the stressful world of breast cancer.

The ultimate question is whether the interventions translate into health effects that confer survival advantages. Previous studies of cancer patients have produced mixed results, but suggest that group therapy can improve survival.

Her findings are preliminary, but so far, Barbara L. Andersen, PhD, professor of psychology at Ohio State University in Columbus, said they show a relationship between stress reduction and immune enhancement in women with breast cancer.

"Our hypothesis is that women treated with this psychological intervention