Fat Cells in Breast Tissue: Link Between Social Stress and Breast Cancer by Lilie Shockney RN

Yes, you read that correctly. Researchers have discovered that exposure to severe social stressors during a girl’s early life may be linked by local chemical signals released by fat cells in the girl’s breast tissue may provide an important link to her eventual development of breast cancer years later. This research was conducted at the University of Chicago and published in the May issue of Cancer Prevention Research.

This is incredible, and disturbing, news

To think that some forms of stress in our youth can trigger the development of breast cancer in our adulthood—WOW!

Something that was of particular interest to me in this study was the finding that the social isolation experienced by many young girls can lead—and has apparently been found to lead—to the reprogramming of certain genes in fat cells in the mammary glands. In-depth tests were focused on triple-negative breast cancers (i.e., those not stimulated to grow by female hormones or by a HER2 protein) as a way to help ensure the purity of the data results.

A young girl’s attachments and bonds to others

This news is hard to read, given that many of us are mothers and grandmothers and feel at times that we have no control over our youngsters’ health. Now we must also keep in mind that getting young girls involved socially is clearly more important that we realized.

And we must guard against pushing too hard

Also, we must be sure that we have appropriate expectations of them, so that we don’t over-stress them by pushing them to achieve the unachievable. It’s always been important at so many levels that we caregivers be very watchful of issues like sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying, and a young girl‘s attempts to measure up to other people’s unrealistic expectations. Now we have another reason to help: to prevent the development of breast cancer in her adulthood. 

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