Clinical Corner - January 2023

For many decades, the association of prolonged stress and cancer has been known. This has been described in civilians who are affected by the prolonged stress of war, such as those living in wartime Britain during the London blitz in 1940-41 and, more recently, the unfortunate people living in Ukraine.

Recent studies have also shown that certain populations may be especially susceptible to prolonged cancer-causing stress. The term to describe and quantify this stress is termed “allostatic load.” Using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the National Death Index, these important associations have been noted.

To determine “allostatic load,” the researchers looked at several factors collected in NHANES: BMI, diastolic blood pressure, glycohemoglobin, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, serum triglyceride, serum albumin, serum creatinine and C-reactive protein. The result showed that Non-Hispanic White adults had a 95% increased risk, non-Hispanic Black adults had a twofold increased risk and Hispanic adults had a 36% increased risk.

While many of the specific factors leading to stress-related cancer are not currently found in our cancer registries, the challenge will be to capture elements to assure that our registries remain a viable research tool as the future relationship of malignancy and stress is analyzed.