Stress exposure in significant relationships is associated with lymph node status in breast cancer

Chiara Renzi, Valeria Vadilonga, Sara Gandini, Giada Perinel, Nicole Rotmensz, Florence Didier, Maria Rescigno, Gabriella Pravettoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Life stress exposure may impact on health and disease. Previous literature showed that stressful life events are associated with cancer incidence, survival and mortality. In animal models, patterns of maternal care have been shown to critically affect stress sensitivity and immunity trajectories later in life, by modifying DNA methylation during critical periods early in life. However, the role of parental care in breast cancer progression and survival has only limitedly been explored. Here, we investigated whether these factors may be linked to biological prognostic variables. Methods: One hundred twenty-three women hospitalized for surgery of primary breast cancer completed a questionnaire assessing parental bonding. Stressful events throughout the life span were also assessed. Results: We found that the absence of optimal parental relationships is significantly associated with an increased risk of lymph node involvement, adjusting for confounders, while cumulative stress in the area of sentimental relationships is borderline significantly associated with the same prognostic factor. Conclusions: Our results suggest that parental bonding and sentimental relations may have a role in breast cancer progression. These variables represent an important evolutionary aspect which may modulate cancer progression through psycho-physiological stress pathways and influence the immune system.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0149443
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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