The use of massage therapy for oncology patients has grown in recent years, as research indicates massage’s ability to alleviate patients’ pain and stress.

Just-released, unrelated, research suggests certain gene activity may enable the spread of cancer.

Researchers from Ohio State University have linked the activation of a stress gene in immune-system cells to the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body.

They say the study, conducted primarily on mice, suggests this gene, called ATF3, may be the crucial link between stress and cancer, including the major cause of cancer death – its spread, or metastasis. Previous public health studies have shown that stress is a risk factor for cancer.

The new research suggests that cancer cells coax immune-system cells that have been recruited to the site of a tumor to express ATF3. Although it’s still unclear how, ATF3 promotes the immune cells to act erratically and give cancer an escape route from a tumor to other areas of the body

Related article: Research Shows Massage Therapy Lessens Stress