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As noted in my post on the relationship between stress and cancer, it is a well known fact that cortisol, when released often and for long periods, will suppress the immune system. Cortisol takes out natural killer cells—the type of white blood cell that destroys cancer. Under prolonged periods of stress and long periods of immune suppression, cancer can develop and progress.

Cancer is a multistep disease process that  is fueled by glucose, arachidonic acid, and hormones. These hormones include cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Adrenaline and noradrenaline both act in the cancer and tumor microenvironment by suppressing the immune system and allowing tiny one-millimeter tumors to create their own blood supply.

This process of creating new blood vessels is called angiogenesis. 

All cells have programs that allow them to commit suicide when they get damaged, or cease to function normally. This programmed cell death is called apoptosis. Cancer cells also have this program.

However, mutated cells have a way of escaping this self-destruct program. Researchers found that the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline both inactivate the suicide program in cancer cells, thus allowing them to survive. 

Metastasis is the spread of cancer cells from the their original site. This is dangerous because the cancerous cells can set up tumor growth in other tissues and organs. The majority of mutated cells die on their journey through the body, or are picked off by the immune system. However, under prolonged stress, the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline can increase the migration of cancer cells.

In Cancer Research, evidence was presented that found noradrenaline to increase the movement and migration of colon-cancer cells. It was also found that adrenaline and noradrenaline allow cancer cells to release enzymes that dissolve the protective layer around organs, allowing the cancer cells to invade those organs. 

“Stress kills” are not empty words spoken in passing over a cup of coffee.

It—stress—is a serious issue, and its reaction creates a very combustible fuel that creates and contributes to the progression of cancer and tumor development. Resolving chronic disease like cancer should always include helping individuals to manage their stressors.

This, coupled with implementing changes in lifestyle via diet, exercise, elimination of toxins, will not only prevent the development of cancer, it will improve treatment outcomes and the incidence of cancer returning.


  • Perspectives, March 2006, Vol 6, The influence of bio-behavioural factors on tumour biology: pathways and mechanisms
  • Clinical Cancer Research 2003;9:4514-4521  Stress-Related Mediators Stimulate Vascular Endothelial GrowthFactor Secretion by Two Ovarian Cancer Cell Lines