Connecting environmental stress to cancer cell biology through the neuroendocrine response

A. Melhem, S. Conzen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


An individual’s exposure and response to social stressors has long been implicated in chronic disease risk. The potential mechanisms underlying the link between stressors and cancer susceptibility have been the subject of long-standing research for both social and basic scientists. Despite their continued efforts, the exact impact that psychological stressors have on cancer susceptibility and progression is still poorly understood. However, knowing the mechanisms connecting social stress and cancer biology could lead to major changes in public health initiatives and cancer treatment. Epidemiological evidences taken together with biological models of cancer development have shed some light on how chronic stress may contribute to human cancer. Following exposure to stress, both the endocrine and the autonomic nervous system are activated. This neuroendocrine response can mediate signaling pathways and gene expression changes at the cellular level that have the potential to alter tumor biology. For example, in preclinical models of both breast and ovarian cancer, there are growing data linking environmental stressors with an ensuing neuroendocrine response and ultimately molecular changes in tumor tissues. These changes include inhibiting tumor cell apoptosis and increasing cell proliferation, tumor invasion, and angiogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Environmental Health
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780444639523
ISBN (Print)9780444639516
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Angiogenesis
  • Apoptosis
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Beta-adrenergic receptors
  • Cancer
  • Catecholamines
  • Cortisol
  • Glucocorticoid receptors
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis
  • Immune system
  • Stress
  • Tumorigenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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