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There is a good deal of anecdotal evidence suggesting that stressed out women are more likely to receive positive breast cancer tests. Now new research has identified a molecular pathway that may be responsible for this association.
A team of researchers from the University of Western Ontario reported in the International Journal of Cancer that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system. This primes the body's fight or flight response. This system communicates with cells throughout the body through a neurotransmitter known neuropeptide Y, or NPY.
The new research established that this compound activates receptor sites on breast cancer cells that prompt them to grow and spread.
"We found NPY greatly accelerates cell growth as well as cell migration and these are two important steps in primary tumor growth, as well as in metastasis," said researcher Philip Medeiros.
This could be an important advancement in the prevention of breast cancer. The findings could enable researchers to design medication that block NPY in breast cells, which may help high-risk individuals reduce their chances of developing the disease.
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