SATURDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Reducing cancer patients'
stress may benefit their health, a new study finds.
Researchers investigated whether chronic stress associated with
cancer diagnosis accelerated shortening of telomeres. These
structures on the ends of chromosomes protect the chromosome from
deteriorating, breaking apart or joining with other chromosomes,
which can lead to mutations.
The investigators also wanted to see if counseling sessions
designed to lower stress and improve quality of life affected
The study included 31 women with cervical cancer who were
randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group received usual
care along with six counseling sessions by phone while the other
group received usual care without counseling.
Biological samples were collected from both groups at the start
of the study and again after four months. The findings are to be
presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American
Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Orlando, Fla.
"Improved quality of life and reduced stress response was associated with changes in telomere length," Dr. Edward Nelson, division chief of hematology/oncology at the University of California, Irvine, said in an AACR news release.
It's important to remember that this was "an exploratory and
preliminary" study, he added.
Still, "there is no doubt that offering psychological services
has the potential to improve quality of life and outcomes of
patients. After all, making patients feel better should be an
outcome that a cancer team should want to have, but whether we can
draw conclusions or make recommendations about the capacity of a
behavioral intervention to modulate telomere length remains an open
question," Nelson said.
Experts note that research presented at meetings has not been
subject to the rigorous review that precedes publication in a
The American Cancer Society has more about the
emotional and mental impacts of cancer.