APS Press San Antonio 2012

Sephton & Lush, San Antonio, TX


Dedicated to the Integration of Biological, Psychological and Social Factors in Medicine

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McLean, VA 22101-3906

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email: info@psychosomatic.org


Release from American Psychosomatic Society Meeting, San Antonio, Texas

Contacts: Sandra Sephton (sephton@louisville) and  Elizabeth Lush (Edlush01@louisville.edu).



University of Louisville research suggests social support fails to counteract disrupted rest and activity patterns that accompany early-stage tumor fight


San Antonio, Texas – A breast cancer patient's own biology may outweigh the effects of social support in fighting the early stages of the disease.

Some research has shown that social support may benefit cancer patients by buffering stress and possibly, by bringing about better stress hormone levels and sleep-wake cycles, which also relate to immunity. As cancer progresses, those cycles can become disrupted.

A study led by Dr. Sandra Sephton at the University of Louisville found that for newly diagnosed patients, quality of social support was not significantly related to their body rhythms or immunity.

But patients who had disrupted circadian patterns of rest and activity did have higher blood levels of tumor-promoting agents.

Results of the study were presented by doctoral student Elizabeth Lush at the American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting, held March 9-12 in San Antonio, TX.

Breast surgeon Dr. Anees Chagpar (Yale University) invited patients who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer to be in the study. Fifty-seven women reported on their personal data and the quality of social support they received. During four days at home, they wore monitors to measure their rest and activity patterns and gave saliva samples to indicate cortisol hormone levels. Blood samples were analyzed at Stanford University in the laboratory of Dr. Firdaus Dhabhar. Findings showed patients with irregular sleep-wake cycles had elevated serum levels of tumor-promoting factors. Researchers adjusted for age, cancer stage and socio-economic status.

The patients' disrupted rest and activity patterns appeared to be associated with tumor-promoting agents. And social support did not seem to relate to their immunity and daily rhythms.

The research suggests that circadian rhythms may be tightly linked with cancer defense mechanisms, and may help govern how effectively the body fights early-stage breast cancer.