Lack of Social Interaction Affects Health Outcomes of Breast Cancer

Oct 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Social environment can play an important role in the biology of disease, including breast cancer, and lead to significant differences in health outcome, according to results of a study published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“This study uses an elegant preclinical model and shows that alters expression of genes important in mammary gland ,” said the journal’s Deputy Editor Caryn Lerman, Ph.D. “It further elucidates the molecular mechanisms linking environmental stress with breast development and progression.”

These findings suggest novel targets for chemoprevention, and future studies should evaluate whether these molecular processes can be reversed by chemopreventive agents, according to Lerman, who is the Mary W. Calkins professor of psychiatry and scientific director of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Previous results from clinical studies have indicated that social support can improve the health outcome of patients with breast cancer. Epidemiological studies have suggested that social isolation increases the from several chronic diseases.

Suzanne D. Conzen, M.D., associate professor in the department of medicine and the Ben May department for cancer research at the University of Chicago, along with colleagues from the Institute of Mind and Biology at the University of Chicago, evaluated whether an unfavorable social environment could influence tumor growth in mice that are genetically predisposed to mammary gland cancer.

They found that female mice that were chronically stressed because of social isolation (from the time they were first separated from their mothers) developed significantly larger mammary gland tumors compared to those mice that were group-housed.

Additionally, the isolated mice developed a heightened corticosterone stress hormone response.

“Despite the of the mice assigned to grouped versus isolated housing, living in the stressful environment was associated with greater tumor size, suggesting that the social environment may in fact alter the biology of cancer growth…then, of course, the question becomes how,” she said.

The researchers studied in the mouse mammary tissues and found that alterations in the expression levels of metabolic pathway genes, which are expected to favor increased tumor growth, had occurred in the isolated mice even before tumor size differences were measurable. These gene expression patterns suggest potential molecular biomarkers and/or targets for preventive intervention in breast cancer.

Further research is needed to focus on which specific cell types the changes in gene expression are taking place, according to Conzen. This knowledge could potentially lead to interventions that block similar pathways favoring the growth of human .

“Given the increased knowledge of the human genome we can begin to objectively identify and dissect the specific alterations that take place in cancer-prone tissues of individuals in at-risk environments and that will help us to better understand and implement cancer prevention strategies,” she concluded.

Provided by American Association for Cancer Research (news : web)

Explore further: DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Social isolation worsens cancer

Sep 29, 2009

Using mice as a model to study human breast cancer, researchers have demonstrated that a negative social environment (in this case, isolation) causes increased tumor growth. The work shows -- for the first time -- that social ...

Recommended for you

DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate (Update)

15 hours ago

A high-tech screening tool for cervical cancer is facing pushback from more than a dozen American patient groups, who warn that the genetic test could displace a simpler, cheaper and more established mainstay of women's health: ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...