Studies Found Links Between Depression and Cancer

Studies have shown that depression can increase your risk of getting cancer. Don't let that worry you, though: depression is also a sign that it's time to take better care of your mental and physical health, which can help you prevent a wide variety of diseases, including depression and cancer.
Studies Found Links Between Depression and Cancer

Last update: 21 March, 2019

Recent studies have found that people who have symptoms of depression for a long period of time are more likely to die from cancer. Could depression and cancer really be related and if so, how?

Is There a Relationship Between Depression and Cancer?

Woman sitting in window city snowing sadness depression and cancer linked

Depression is the result of a complex interaction between social, psychological, and biological factors. This can result in a variety of alterations at different stages in your life.

However, when you suffer from depression over a long period of time, you can potentially aggravate other health factors. Unfortunately, a result of that could be a higher risk of developing cancer.

Several studies have linked depression with a greater likelihood of suffering from different types of tumors.

In a study that was carried out in the UK, clinical analyses of more than 160,000 adults found that:

  • Many people had chronic psychological problems.
  • Those who did were more likely to die from cancers of the pancreas, prostate, or colon.

However, there is no evidence that the link between depression and cancer is directly cause and effect. Researchers made it very clear that this study just has statistically significant conclusions.

Other Research on Depression and Cancer

These studies and more are joined by a good body of evidence that also suggests the same conclusion.

The direct relationship between physical health and mental health is evident in a lot of research.

For example, there is clear evidence of a relationship between the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders and the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.

Mother comforts sad daughter depression and cancer

Hormonal Imbalances

The relationship between cancer and depression may be caused by hormonal imbalances. After all, depression leads to a higher production of cortisol. This imbalance can lead to other health problems.

In addition to that, the body’s natural mechanisms for DNA repair are inhibited. This weakens your defenses against cancer.

Another very important factor is that people who have frequent bouts of depression are more prone to alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and obesity.

As you know, these are three risk factors that increase the possibility of developing cancer.

Psychological Stress and Depression

People experience psychological stress when they are disturbed by mental, physical, or emotional pressure.

It’s not entirely a bad thing to suffer some stress sometimes; actually, it’s quite normal.

However, suffering from it to a high degree for long periods of time or repeatedly can have serious consequences for your physical and mental health.

When episodes of stress occur, the body reacts to the pressure by releasing cortisol.

These hormones promote increases in your blood pressure. In addition, they speed up your heart rate and increase the levels of sugar in your bloodstream.

While these shifts can make it easier to have more energy to deal with that stress, the reality is that they also come with certain health risks.

Excessive Stress May Lead to Illness

Chronic stress that is both intense and over long periods of time can cause urinary problems, digestive issues, and alterations in fertility and the immune system.

In addition, those who have chronic stress are also more prone to common diseases.

This is the case with the flu, common colds, headaches, and sleeping disorders. This is also the case with the diseases talked about here: anxiety and depression.

Stress Management and Cancer Screening

Man sleeps on his desk at work doing math finances depression and cancer
People who have already been diagnosed with cancer have to learn to control their psychological stress as well as their depression.

First of all, it’s important to find emotional and social support. This can help decrease anxiety and alleviate the effects of depression and anxiety. In addition, it can help reduce or prevent other symptoms that occur when the body’s defenses are weakened.

Methods for Managing Stress and Depression

Certain mental techniques can really help to fight stress and depression. This is the case with yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, and more.

In addition, other therapies can help alleviate psychological stress, such as psychotherapy.

Overall, healthy habits, taking care of your body and mind, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep are very effective habits when it comes to fighting stress, depression, anxiety, and other related diseases.

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  • Brown, J. H., & Paraskevas, F. (1982). Cancer and depression: cancer presenting with depressive illness: an autoimmune disease?. The British Journal of Psychiatry141(3), 227-232.
  • Reiche, E. M. V., Nunes, S. O. V., & Morimoto, H. K. (2004). Stress, depression, the immune system, and cancer. The lancet oncology5(10), 617-625.