Men with high levels of stress and those with less satisfying contacts with friends and family members have high levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in their blood, a marker for the development of prostate cancer, new research shows.
"Psychological stress and social support should receive future attention as potential predictors of PSA levels, and more speculatively, prostate cancer. These findings raise the possibility that psychosocial factors promote prostate disease through direct physiological pathways," said Arthur A. Stone, Ph.D., head of the study.
Investigators at State University of New York at Stony Brook's medical school studied 318 men who had been recruited through a prostate cancer-screening program. Each man was tested for PSA levels in his blood and received a digital rectal exam. The men also completed standard psychological scales assessing their feelings of anger, nervousness, and ability to cope with their daily lives, as well as their satisfaction with their contacts with family members and friends. The results of the study appear in the September issue of Health Psychology.
Levels of stress and social support clearly predicted the men's PSA levels within the study. After the researchers controlled for age, a factor known to influence PSA levels, they found that the risk of having an abnormal PSA test was over three times higher for men with high levels of stress than for men with low levels of stress (16 percent of high stress men compared with 4.8 percent of low stress men). "Similarly, those with low levels of social support were twice as likely to have an abnormal PSA as were those with high levels of support (12.9 percent of low-support men compared with 6.8 percent of high-support men)."
"It remains unclear exactly how high stress and low social support lead to increased PSA levels," said Stone. "It is possible that these men engage in more unhealthy activities, such as drinking excessively or eating poorly, that raise their susceptibility to disease. Other research has shown, however, that stress, social support and other psychological factors can have more direct effects on the immune system and other physiological systems in the body."
The research was supported by an internal grant from the Applied Behavioral Medicine Research Institute at State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Health Psychology is the official, peer-reviewed research journal of the Division of Health Psychology (Division 38), American Psychological Association. For information about the journal, contact David Krantz, Ph.D., at 301-295-3273.
Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health http://www.cfah.org. For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, email@example.com 202-387-2829.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.