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Posted: September 03, 2008

Your Mental Outlook May Determine Breast Cancer Risk

Genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors may all have something to do with whether someone gets cancer, but now researchers say life events that alter one’s mental outlook may also be a risk factor, at least when it comes to breast cancer. 

In an Israeli study just published in the British journal BMC Cancer, researchers questioned women about their life experiences and evaluated their levels of happiness, optimism, anxiety, and depression prior to diagnosis. Researchers used this information to examine the relationship between life events, psychological distress and breast cancer among women.


A total of 622 women between the ages of 25 and 45 were interviewed: 255 breast cancer patients and 367 healthy women.


"The results showed a clear link between outlook and risk of breast cancer, with optimists 25% less likely to have developed the disease. Conversely, women who suffered two or more traumatic events had a 62% greater risk," said lead researcher Professor Ronit Peled, of Ben-Gurion University. "Young women who have been exposed to a number of negative life events should be considered an 'at-risk' group for breast cancer and should be treated accordingly."


The researchers indicate that women were interviewed after their diagnosis, which may color their recall of their past emotional state somewhat negatively. However, according to Peled, it appears clear that experiencing more than one severe or even mild to moderate life event is a risk factor for breast cancer among young women.


On the other hand, a general feeling of happiness and optimism can play a protective role, he says.


According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Breast cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in Hispanic women, and it is the second most common cause of cancer death in white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.

In 2004 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), 186,772 US women and 1,815 men were diagnosed with breast cancer. In that same year, 40,954 women and 362 men died from breast cancer, CDC said.


(Article courtesy of

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