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HOMEMEDICINECancer

Stress, Cancer and Sexuality

Published on July 30, 2013

Anything that compromises your immune system
dramatically reduces your chances for long term survival
.

It’s understandable that sexuality may not be the primary focus for most cancer patients, at least not right away. But at some point, whether because of sexual changes, relationship issues, or difficulties with fertility, patients realize the impact of cancer on their sexuality. What is not realized is how dysfunctions in our sexualities causes cancer. What we do about our sexualities has a great bearing on whether we recover from cancer or not because sexual stress does cause cancer and does reduce immune system strength.

MD Anderson Cancer Center and The Canadian Cancer Society say, “When you think of sexuality, your first thought may be the physical act of sexual intercourse. But sexuality goes beyond engaging in sexual activity. As a human being, your sexuality is a part of your physical, emotional, intellectual, and social self. It affects how you think of yourself and how you relate to others, as well as how they relate to you, and it is a part of you throughout your entire life.”

Dr. Nalini Chilkov writes, “Cancer risk increases when the immune system is compromised by stress, loss of sleep, depression, inability to eat, poor nutrition.  When a woman is traumatized by sexual violence and sexual assault, particularly if it was perpetrated by someone she trusted such as her partner or a family member her immune system will be compromised and her risk of many diseases, including cancer will increase.”

The news of being diagnosed with cancer and the fear
and uncertainty of death represents a shock for most
people creating a spike in stress hormone cortisol levels.

When the body is under stress, it releases hormones — such as adrenaline and cortisol that cause suppression of our immune system. Stress does wide scale damage to our physiology and even reaches down to genes forcing activation of certain genes and deactivation of others leading to changes that impact the growth of cancer. The stress hormone cortisol can change the body’s genetics and interfere with the ability of tumor-suppressing genes to do their job.

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When it comes to sexual cancers we have to look all the way back in time to sexual and even emotional abuse from the times of childhood. Any sexual violence against us at any age can terrify and shock us into a life of grief and eventually to the shores of cancer.

For Lothar Hirneise, cancer starts with stress: “Cancer cannot
exist without stress. One hundred percent impossible! There
are a lot of debates on types of stress — physical and psychological
— but for a cell it doesn’t matter where the stress comes from.”

Though most physicians are still sceptical that emotions matter clinically we can see clearly how people who experience long term depression and anxiety, long periods of sadness and pessimism, incessant hostility and aggression have much higher incidences of major diseases. One large scale study among approximately 2,000 middle aged male employees of the Western Electric Company reported that those individuals who were more depressed were 2.3 times as likely to die of cancer during the following 17 years than their non-depressed counterparts.[1]

There is reason to believe that a normal range
of emotions, including both negative and
positive emotions, is helpful to our wellbeing.
Dr. Roger Dafter

Stress, which has been loosely defined as “a state of threatened homeostasis,” has repeatedly been shown to result in changes in the immune system’s ability to mount a response to an immune challenge. Dozens of studies have shown that stress can alter the levels of certain biochemical markers in the body — key players in the human immune response. Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of researchers from five universities argue that stress can lessen a person’s immune response and that change can make them more susceptible to infectious diseases.[2]

Intense emotional stresses weaken the internal
viscera, thus increasing the opportunity
for pathologies of all types, including cancer.

Stressful events such as these have been linked with a decrease in several aspects of immune function, including the natural killer cell, which is responsible for the surveillance and destruction of tumor cells. In patients with breast cancer, stress has been associated with lower levels of natural killer cell activity, which in turn has been linked to poorer disease outcome.

Dr. Spiegel, MD says that sleep problems alter the balance of two main hormones that influence cancer cells. One is cortisol, which helps to regulate immune system activity — including the release of certain “natural killer” cells that help the body battle cancer. The other hormone affected by sleep is melatonin. Produced by the brain during sleep, melatonin may have antioxidant properties that help prevent damage to cells that can lead to cancer.

People under a lot of stress have fewer natural killer cells, immune system cells that spontaneously kill abnormal cells in their vicinity, including tumor cells and infected cells. We also know that the killer cells of people under stress are also less active. Studies have shown that the absence of natural killer cells is related to the progression of breast cancer. Spiegel says, “I think one of the problems these cancer patients may have is that their immune system is overregulated. Cortisol suppresses immune function and may hamper the immune system’s ability to counter the spread of cancer,” Spiegel said.

It is only when the immune system has become compromised that the cancer cells can grow in an uncontrolled manner, thereby causing the onset of cancer as a severe life threatening disease. Prolonged stress is very different than acute stress. Chronic stress needs to be seen for what it is, a highway to the grave. Stress is not just something that we feel it’s something our cells feel. To them it does not matter so much the source of the stress, stress is stress and each type will have a general debilitating effect.

There are a number of factors that create stress on the body’s cells. They come from all corners of our lives. Psychological stresses like inescapable shock (resulting in PTSD), repressed emotional pain and anger, emotional trauma, depression, isolation, will lead to a deteriorating situation for the life of one’s cells. Poor sleep and poor breathing will always wear ones resistance away and then there are strong physiological stresses, which include poor nutrition, chemicals, toxins, radiation, parasites, mercury containing dental amalgam, vaccines also with mercury, air pollution, fluoride and chlorinated water, lack of sun and of course lack of exercise.

When it comes to sexual cancers we have to look all the way back in time to sexual and even emotional abuse from the times of childhood. Any sexual violence against us at any age can terrify and shock us into a life of grief and eventually to the shores of cancer. There are certain life events like the sudden loss of a loved one, rape, or intense experiences in combat that bring on a trauma that is beyond the ability of even well-adjusted people to deal with. In his book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reported a similar process to what Dr. Hamer outlines namely post-traumatic stress disorders. (PTSD)

PTSD and Sexual Violence

The most common cause of PTSD in women is sexual trauma. A person’s vulnerability to develop PSTD is linked to that individual’s history of victimization. Reports estimate that 15%-38% of women experience childhood sexual abuse, 13% to 20% experience adult rape and at least 20% experience battering.[3] Sexual and physical abuse in women, either when they were children or as adults, can result in post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD and other psychological and psychiatric disturbances. A growing number of studies indicate that such abuse may produce a wide variety of somatic symptoms and disturbances in physical health including cancer.

1 in 5 Women in U.S. say they have been sexually assaulted according the Center for Diseases Control (CDC). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), an exhaustive report on rape and intimate partner violence, affirming what many organizations and advocates have long suspected, that sexual violence against women remains endemic in the United States and is more common than previously thought.

There is a link between a history of sexual and physical
abuse in women and functional disorders such as
irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pelvic pain.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma with lack or loss of control, disempowerment, and in the context of either captivity or entrapment, i.e. the lack of a viable escape route for the victim. C-PTSD is distinct from, but similar to, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

C-PTSD was first described in 1992 by Judith Herman in her book Trauma & Recovery. Forms of trauma associated with C-PTSD include sexual abuse (especially child sexual abuse), physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence or torture — all repeated traumas in which there is an actual or perceived inability for the victim to escape.

Sex lies at the very root of our existence and when that root
is rotten the rest of our vehicle of consciousness is prone to
a multitude of disease states and psycho-spiritual distortions.

PTSD fails to account for a wide cluster of symptoms that are observed in cases of prolonged abuse, particularly that which was perpetrated by caregivers during several childhood and adolescent developmental stages. These symptoms include psychological fragmentation, the loss of a sense of safety, trust, and self-worth, as well as the tendency to be revictimized, and, most importantly, the loss of a coherent sense of self. It is this loss of a coherent sense of self, and the ensuing symptom profile, that most pointedly differentiates C-PTSD from PTSD.

Intense traumatic events, such as maternal separation,
occurring early in the life of an infant may weaken its
immune system, making it more susceptible to viral
infections later in life that could trigger multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Jane Welsh

Texas A&M University

In almost all cases of serious illness, a core issue is hiding or there is an unresolved conflict that’s been repeating over and over in a person’s life and the source of that is often sexual in nature. Core issues, or what might be seen as unrecognized truths that are waiting to be discovered, maintain patterns of energy that hold pain and dysfunction in place. Often the truth of our distress and a deep source of our cancer are found in our sexualities and the trauma and pain we experience in this area of our life.

Intimacy, touch, sex, and love are crucial to our happiness.
Life lived without these essentials are more difficult to endure.

The field of intimacy, love and sex are crucial aspects of our life and disturbances in these areas create great stress and immune suppression. Sex brings us to the most vulnerable issues of life and to our very roots, which often come from birth, and the earliest periods of life.

Sexual Emotional Abuse

The Australian Institute of Family Studies published:

Experiences of childhood trauma caused by abuse or neglect can lead to a variety of overwhelming emotions, such as anger, sadness, guilt, and shame. In order to avoid such feelings, children can take refuge in dissociation, denial, amnesia, or emotional numbing (Everett & Gallop, 2001). These coping mechanisms can become over-generalized with time and without protective factors (i.e., positive events or characteristics) to intervene, these negative outcomes may continue throughout life. Adult survivors of childhood trauma may also find it difficult to control emotions and or actions. For adults with a history of childhood trauma, recollections of past trauma can almost be as strongly felt as if it was happening again, which may lead to unexpected reactions, such as lashing out in anger or bursting into uncontrolled weeping in response to what most people would view as relatively minor events (Everett & Gallop, 2001).

Men look to sex in order to feel better, whereas for women,
willingness to have sex is proof that they already feel good.
For men, sex makes the sun shine and the birds chirp.
For women, unless the sun is already shining and
the birds already chirping, sex is out of the question.

Grantley Morris

Sexual Medicine

A session of passionate love once a week keeps a woman’s reproductive system in tip-top condition,” explains Dr. Winnifred Cutler, director of the Athena Institute for Women’s Wellness Research in Pennsylvania. In a study of 700 women, those who had sex at least once a week were found to have twice the levels of estrogen as those who had sex less than once a week. And women approaching menopause who still enjoyed sex weekly experienced fewer hot flashes than those who had sex less often.

Orgasm acts as a powerful pain-relief agent, and studies
suggest it bolsters immune functioning. The typical orgasm
will boost the body’s T3 and T4 lymphocyte cells– the
cells that fight off foreign invaders–by up to 20 percent.[4]

Research has also shown that frequent sexual activity—having an orgasm at least twice a week—can keep you from getting sick this winter. Individuals who engage in regular sexual activity have been shown to produce higher levels of immunoglobulin (IGA), an anti-body that can prevent susceptibility to catching minor colds and flu.

In a study conducted by Wilkes-Barre University in Pennsylvania, IGA levels were revealed to be significantly higher—at least 33 percent higher—in people that had regular sex with a partner than those who had less frequent sexual encounters. Regardless of length or the emotional health of the relationships, the benefits as a result of sexual activity were the same in the study participants.

Treating Sexual Stress

Dr. Barbara Anderson said in Medical and Pediatric Oncology that, “Women with positive and no conflicting sexual self-views tend to see themselves as romantic and passionate individuals who are behaviorally open to experience and who are generally not limited by such negative feelings as embarrassment or self-consciousness. In contrast, women with predominantly negative views of the sexual self see themselves as conservative, embarrassed, and self-conscious; as behaviorally inhibited; and as generally less passionate or romantic. Consistent with these self-views; women with positive sexual self-schemas describe themselves as more “sexual” than their peer group and hold high levels of self-esteem regarding their skill as a sexual partner.”

The best way of treating sexual stress is obviously having sufficient good sex. One does not have to be in a couple in a couple’s relationship to enjoy one’s sexuality. Only children are excluded from tapping into their sexualities as a mode of healing. Men and women who have been abused need a lot of help in recovering for these are the ones with the most conflicting sexual self-views.

Sexual aids (toys) can be thought of as medical devices when they help us deal with sexual stress. In my Natural Allopathic Medicine protocol there are other things like the far-infrared BioMats help not only with stress loads but are actually good platforms upon which to make love. They are warm and nurturing.

Because stress reaches deep into us I also recommend breathing retraining (slowing the breath down), heavy magnesium administration and even medical marijuana to help with all aspects of sex. Slowing the breath down is a form of cancer treatment in and of itself because it helps raise oxygen and carbon dioxide levels significantly as well as deal directly with stress.

[1] Stress, Emotions, and Câncer. University of Iowa. http://www.uihealthcare.com/topics/medicaldepartments/cancercenter/prevention/preventionstress.html

[2] Disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 22, 2007, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/07/990727072903.htm

[3] Butterfield, M. and Becker, M. Posttraumatic stress disorder in women: assessment and treatment in primary care, Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, Vol. 29, No. 1, March 2002

[4] Dr. Dudley Chapman has followed the progress of women with breast cancer and finds that the frequency of orgasm might aid their health progress; the more climaxes they have, the healthier they are. He discounts the idea that the beneficial impact of orgasm is due to the general love and support given the cancer victims by their lovers because several of the women who improved most live alone and masturbate to orgasm. “I don’t want to wave any flags and say [orgasm] cures cancer,” Chapman cautions. “Still, I’m optimistic that we’re on to something here.”  U.S. News & World Report, Oct 17, 1994 v117 n15 p74(7) Sex in America. (survey on U.S. sexual practices and attitudes) (Cover Story) Joannie M. Schrof.http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1218/is_n15_v117/ai_n12435546/pg_1

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Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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  • Jules

    Tx very informative and helpful article and must be why God made sex so enjoyable!

  • Dan B.

    Dr. Sircus, thank you for bringing this important aspect of health to my awareness. I suspect that sexuality is seldom considered as a source of good health. Do you have any articles or books on men’s sexual health and vitality? It is extremely important to me that I am able to share this beautiful gift with my wife throughout our 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and beyond!