Stress May Raise Endometrial Cancer Risk

Jul 16, 2004 05:07 AM EDT

Recent research has found that social stress may double the risk of endometrial cancer.

Scientists, publishing their study in the July issue of the journal Menopause, measured cell proliferation and sex steroid receptors in the lining of the uterus, as well as breast tissue thickness of postmenopausal female monkeys.

Increase of risk doubled

The researchers placed the monkeys into groups, allowing them to naturally establish a social hierarchy from dominant to subordinate monkeys. Low social status is associated with markers of increased risk for endometrial cancer in postmenopausal primates. Also, earlier research has found that subordinate monkeys have increased heart rates, more stress hormones and increased cardiovascular disease. Compared to dominant monkeys, the socially stressed subordinate monkeys had double the risk for developing endometrial cancer.

Effect of stress difficult to study in humans

The scientists noted that the effect of stress is difficult to study in humans because people who have a low socioeconomic status are under-represented in the healthcare system, making it almost impossible to see the direct effects of stress on health among this group. Also, race plays a role, making it difficult to determine if the differences in disease risk are racial or social.

The reproductive system of monkeys is similar to the human reproduction system, which makes them a good model for studying reproductive disorders and diseases.


1. C. A. Shively; et al., “Effects of Social Status and Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Mammary Gland and Endometrium of Surgically Postmenopausal Monkeys,” Menopause, 11(4):389-399, 2004.