Could love save you from breast cancer? Probably not. There are plenty of people in strong relationships who develop breast cancer, and some die from it. No matter how much you love the one you’re with, it’s not going to be a fool-proof breast cancer prevention method or cancer treatment method.
But a new study points to falling in love and other positive life events as potential factors in decreasing the risk of breast cancer and breast-cancer-related mortality.
And who doesn’t want to be in love or have positive things happen to them? We think it’s probably worth giving it a shot. If it doesn’t cure you or keep you from getting cancer, at least you can have some extra joy while you’re enduring the tough times.
The study is based on the fact that past research has strongly suggested that overexposure to stress hormones over time is linked to increased morbidity; that is to say, stress makes us sick. If this is true, it makes sense that positive life events could have an opposite effect on the body, reducing stress and potentially even the chance of death. But more research was necessary to prove the correlation.
So investigators created a study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, which investigated data from a survey they created, as well as data from the Finnish Cancer Registry. They studied patients who had survived with breast cancer for at least two years and asked them about the positive and negative life events that had happened to them after or prior to diagnosis.
The results determined that negative life events do tend to increase mortality rates among breast cancer patients (although not if they occurred pre-diagnosis), particularly spouse unemployment, relationship problems, and death of a close friend or family member. On the brighter side, however, positive life events were found to decrease mortality rates. Falling in love and developing hobbies showed the greatest positive effect.
The researchers believe their results reflect “the importance of social interaction and support” in the lives of people with breast cancer. More research is needed on the topic, but we think it’s safe to say that falling in love won’t hurt you. So go ahead and jump in feet first!
It’s also important to remember that it wasn’t the negative life events themselves that cause higher morbidity and mortality rates in cancer patients; it was the stress induced by those life events. So even if everything seems to be going wrong, try to keep a positive attitude and not let the bad things bother you too much. Your conscious choice to reduce your stress levels by caring less about the negative events that happen to you could play a part in saving your health and your life.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?