A new study at the Fox Chase Cancer Centre has found that stress may increase the risk of developing cervical cancer in women.
Cervical cancer is caused by Human papillomavirus (HPV) subtype, HPV 16 that spread during sexual intercourse.
The study led by Carolyn Y. Fang hypothesized that stress could lead to alterations in immune functioning.
"HPV infection alone is not sufficient to cause cervical cancer," said Fang.
"Most HPV infections in healthy women will disappear spontaneously over time. Only a small percentage will progress to become precancerous cervical lesions or cancer.
"An effective immune response against HPV can lead to viral clearance and resolution of HPV infection. But some women are less able to mount an effective immune response to HPV," he added.
The team examined the potential link between stress and immune response to HPV among women with precancerous cervical lesions.
They asked the participants to complete a questionnaire about their perceived stress in the past month and about major stressful life events that had occurred, such as divorce, death of a close family member or loss of a job.
The findings revealed that women with higher levels of perceived stress were more likely to have a weaken immune response to HPV16.
"That means women who report feeling more stressed could be at greater risk of developing cervical cancer because their immune system can't fight off one of the most common viruses that causes it," said Fang
The study appears in the February issue of Annals of Behavioural Medicine.