A recent study conducted by researchers from Lund University of Sweden shows women who have lower levels of anti-stress hormone are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. This study is the first one that has been done on humans and it confirms observations that were seen during animal experiments.
These findings offer the potentiality of a new marker for breast cancer risk. The study was focused on the hormone enkephalin that circulates in the blood and has both anxiety and pain reducing properties. In addition the hormone also offers reinforcement for the immune cells as it has a direct effect on them.
The study on the role of enkephalin and its effects in breast cancer was the first one of its type to be completed using humans and the results were very clear. Of the women who were tested those who had the lowest level of the hormone were over three times as likely to develop breast cancer as the women who had higher levels of enkephalin.
The findings of the study were made possible using a fairly broad approach that combined the latest in knowledge within cardiovascular and cancer research at the university. The study used blood samples that were taken from over 1900 women located in Malmo.
These women were then followed for a period of 15 years in regard to breast cancer.Results of the study have been adjusted for menopause, age, smoking, hormone treatments, as well as other factors that may affect the risk of developing breast cancer.
This study has confirmed that there is a statistical correlation between lower amounts of enkephalin in the blood and an increase in developing breast cancer.
It is not yet known if there is a relationship between how a low level of enkephalin and tumor development. Additionally, the researchers state that age and geographical location may be significant despite the adjustments that were made in the study. The average age of the women in the study was 57.
The researchers backed up their results using a control study group of more than 1500 women who had an average age that was slightly higher.In the control group the link between having lower levels of enkephalin were stronger. Research done on animals also provided similar evidence.
Each of the studies that has been completed show that enkephalin reinforces the immune systems activity against cancerous cells and also has a direct tumor inhibiting effect. Further studies need to be conducted in order to help create a better way to prevent or detect the signs of breast cancer earlier.
Individuals who have an increased risk for breast cancer may be able to take preventative measure such as lifestyle changes in order to reduce stress.The current plan is to investigate the levels of enkephalin in healthy individuals and how it can be manipulated.