Massage therapy reduces stress in both mind and body, and has been shown to provide pain-and-stress relief to cancer patients. New research shows that patients who experience high stress prior to cancer therapy could be creating a biological environment that is friendly to cancer cells.

Physical or psychological stress experienced one to two days before a cancer treatment can activates a stress-sensitive protein that can, in turn, spark a series of events that allow cancer cells to survive such treatments as chemotherapy and radiation, the researchers from Ohio State University said.

“The process that sets these activities in motion takes a couple of days,” said Govindasamy Ilangovan, lead author of the study and associate professor of internal medicine at Ohio State. “It is not proven in a clinical setting, but our hypothesis leads us to strongly caution cancer patients about avoiding stress because that stress might trigger recurrence of cancer cell growth.”

The study appears online in the journal Molecular Cancer Research.

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