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High levels of daily stress may lower a woman's risk of breast cancer, researchers believe. The findings contrast to past work suggesting stress doubles the risk. The Danish team says it may be that regular doses of stress are good, while a short burst of acute stress, around a life event such as bereavement, is bad. Their work in the British Medical Journal is based on survey responses of nearly 7,000 women living in Copenhagen between 1981 and 1983. Experts said the research did not clear up whether or not stress is an important factor in breast cancer risk. At the start of the study, the researchers asked the women what levels of stress they experienced routinely in their lives, and classified the results into low, medium and high levels. Stress was defined as tension, nervousness, impatience, anxiety, or sleeplessness. The researchers then tracked whether any of the women developed breast cancer over the next 18 years - 251 of them did. The study authors worked out that women reporting high levels of stress were 40 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer than women reporting low levels of stress. For every increased level of stress on a six-level scale, women were 8 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer. Dr Naja Nielsen and colleagues suggest one explanation for the findings may be that sustained levels of high stress may affect levels of the female hormone oestrogen, which over time may have an influence on developing breast cancer. (IG/WNWCCB)
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