The risk of getting cancer is inversely related to the structure and function of the immune system. When the immune system is compromised, then that increases the risk of cancer. Depending upon what's compromising the immune system, that agent or agents can be triggers and/or promoters for the process of cancer itself. Usually that which suppresses the immune system and damages it is also a cancer initiator or promoter. The things that injure the immune system from poor nutrition include zinc deficiencies, Vitamin A deficiency, Vitamin D deficiency etc. Infections like Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, HIV all directly attack cells of the immune system and are oncogenic (viruses that can actually cause and initiate cancer, toxins and certain forms of trauma) specifically x-ray ionizing radiation.
So the way this all fits together comes from the endocrine system - a collection of organs that produce hormones. Hormones are substances that are produced by cell A, that act as some distance away on cell B. So for example, there is a part of the endocrine system called the autonomic nervous system and this is a very important balance in our body, and it's the balance that helps to maintain what's referred to as biochemical homeostasis, the balance between normal biology and fight or flight reactions.
When our body is under stress, and there are many different definitions of stress, one definition that I like is that the capacity to adapt has been exceeded, and the body can no longer compensate for what's going on. Then, the autonomic nervous system will kick in and their short term responsibility to produce substances called catecholamines. These are the fight or flight hormones, epinephrine, norepinephrine, metanephrines, etc. And these will generate a short term response.
When these biochemical substances kick in, they have an effect of stimulating the immune system because in the grand scheme of things, if we are in a fight or flight situation, there's a high risk of injury. And if we are injured, we want the immune system to be up-regulated. They up-regulate the immune system, so that if we get mauled by the saber-toothed tiger, then we can heal from that mauling without dying of septic shock. They're designed for a short term stressor. In our current society, there are plenty of chronic stressors- those that are not time limited to a few seconds or a few minutes, but actually can drag on for hours, days, months, and even years. When the body is under this sort of chronic stress, the body's ability to cope (let it be mental, emotional, physical, physiological) has been exceeded, then the adrenal glands will produce a whole second set of hormones that have the opposite effect. These are cortisol and hydrocortisone. These are the hormones that have an anti-inflammatory effect and have the opposite effect of the catacholamines, and are designed to down-regulate the immune system.
As with everything else in our body, every system has a check and balance in it. If there's an up-regulation response of catacholamines, there's a down-regulation response with the adrenal hormones that are secreted by the cortex, the cortisols and the like, which down-regulate the immune system and are designed to reduce inflammation, which if you're only dealing with a saber- toothed tiger wound, reduces the inflammation and actually speeds the healing process up once the initial immune system has done its response.
As a society, we find people that have a up-regulated cortisol response chronically. And as a result of that, we see a blunting of the normal circadian cycles between cortisol and DHEA. And when this normal cycle is affected because of the chronic secretion of cortisol, what it does is, not only does it down-regulate the immune system, but it's a very important circadian cycle in our body, which affects mood, memory, focus, concentration, menstrual cycles and sleep, amongst many other things, so that when somebody is in a chronic stress, one of the symptoms that they will often complain about is poor sleep, okay? They have trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep. They restless this, that, and the other. And that is because this critical circadian cycle has been disrupted.
So the ways of dealing with this are many, but nonetheless the underlying biochemistry is the form of check and balance that the autonomic nervous system has in terms of up-regulating and down-regulating the immune response. Now, when somebody who's into chronic stress, and has high levels of circulating cortisol much longer and much higher than they're supposed to have, and there's production of DHEA is abnormally suppressed, and that of course throws off a whole bunch of other hormones, then that increases their risk of cancer, because the immune system cannot respond the way that it should, because it's being suppressed by the cortisol.
STRESS IS A CANCER PROMOTER
Does the cortisol cause cancer? The answer is at this point, NO. So stress in and of itself biochemically does not cause cancer, but it is certainly a cancer promoter, in that if there is something that will trigger a cancer, and in our environment there's no shortage of things, you just need to have a glass of water, any place in Long Island you're exposed to six different carcinogens. But if you are exposed to something that is a cancer initiator, and your cortisol levels are running high, the immune system is suppressed because of stress, then that will increase the possibility of these abnormal cells that have been triggered by the initiator to progress into a tumor and a full blown cancer. So that's the connection, the way that that works biochemically.
And the biochemistry of all of this is very interesting. There is a direct correlation between stress and cancer, and PTSD and cancer. Though stress and PTSD does not cause cancer, it's that they suppress the immune system, and to the excess and chronic production of cortisol, as a result of the normal stress response that has been exaggerated by the chronic and prolonged stress and PTSD situation. To correct this, if you just go after trying to stimulate the immune system, you're going to have all kinds of wayward reactions and responses because now you have cortisol trying to down-regulate while you're trying to up-regulate, and it's just going to be a traffic jam, and gridlock, and nothing useful is going to happen. So you've got to look at that which is causing stress. So that has to be identified and ameliorated on every level possible that has been identified on.
Blood tests look at cortisol levels. You look at that whole pathway, look at how cholesterol is converted into pregnenolone, converted into DHEA, converted into testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, all the normal hormones and the balance of them, which is the heart of the endocrine system. And you can see, because all of these things would have an effect one way or the other in terms of the stress response and the immune response.
Typically what happens when somebody is in a chronic stress, we see a decrease in their level of pregnenolone or a decrease in the level of DHEA. Often testosterone levels are very low that they're undetectable (yes, women also produce testosterone from their adrenal glands). It happens to be one of the hormones that helps with bone density and osteoporosis. When a woman is under chronic stress, they are exposed to a higher risk of osteoporosis. We conduct blood tests to identify these things, and there are supplements that you can take to balance its deficiency and help the body to reestablish a normal circadian cycle. There is a time to take the cortisol, the hydrocortisone or the DHEA to to effectively and safely support a normal cortisol to DHEA curve.
STRESS & IRREGULAR SLEEP
But a very big piece that people don't pay adequate attention to is all the research that's gone on a circadian cycles looking at the sleep cycle in and of itself, and research has shown very important circadian cycles that kick in from approximately 9:00 at night to 3:00 in the morning, during which time the body can most efficiently repair damage, and the immune system can most efficiently repair itself, and take care of business. But people only go into that restorative cycle if they're actually sleeping, which is why people that work night shifts and swing shifts have a much higher incidence of severe and chronic disease.
There's a whole field of medicine called chronobiology, which would be fat textbooks, I own a couple. But the interesting thing is as they research different circadian cycles that every organ and every system has, it's very ... one of the fascinating things to me is how often the current research that they're doing at Harvard in their Department of Chronobiology, in such places as that, is how often their research about these cycles comes back and shows us the timing of the cycles. And of course, it's local time. The timing is set up by the sun, not by your habit, so that these cycles don't reset themselves, just because we have a habit of going to bed at 3:00 in the morning.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JESSE STOFF, MD, HMD, FAAFP is a highly-credentialed medical expert studying all medical remedies in pursuit of resolving the most challenging health issues of our time. In many circles, he is recognized for his 35+ years of dedicated work in immunology and advanced clinical research in modern CANCER treatments. He has spoken worldwide in some of the most sought-after medical conferences about his experiences and analyses on the study of human disease. His integrative practice (INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE OF NY, Westbury, NY) has been continually providing all patients with the many comprehensive clinical options and modalities available- including "ONCO-IMMUNOLOGY", the science of battling cancer cells and reversing pre-cancerous conditions through a complete prevention program that has earned him great success in this field. visit: www.Dr.JesseStoff.com
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