Telomeres tell the tale of stress relief in cancer patients

Most of us already know that stress is bad news. Stress makes it difficult to perform well at work, to maintain healthy relationships, and if it goes on long enough can have a negative impact on our physical health. If you find out you have cancer, stress levels might just go through the roof. A recent study, though, indicates that cancer patients who manage to reduce stress may be rewarded with better health. Those who coped better, according to the study, saw improvement in stress-related biomarkers.

This news comes from Edward Nelson, chief of hematology and oncology at the University of California, Irvine. The biomarker he looked at were the length of telomeres, which are structures at the end of chromosomes that keep them from deteriorating. Telomeres can be compared to aglets (yes, those plastic thingies at the end of your shoelaces are called aglets). The older you get, the shorter your telomeres. But the same thing is true for stress. Find your "happy place," and you'll be rewarded with longer telomeres.

"Women participating in our clinical study who experienced an improved qualify of life and decreased stress response had an increase in telomere length in the circulating white blood cells," Nelson told WebMD. When telomeres get very short, he says, ''they trigger the chromosomes to fuse together, break, or rearrange. In rare circumstances, these sorts of rearranging and damage to the gene can result in the development of cancer."

- read more on WebMD
- and HealthDay also has an article