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Breast Cancer Risk Affected by Depression?

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A study seems to suggest that depression may cause a slight increase in breast cancer risk.

There have been other small studies that suggest that emotional health, stress, nutrition, and exercise all can affect the immune system, which then affects breast cancer risk. For example, women in breast cancer support groups live longer than those who don't join such groups. Researchers speculate that one reason is the stress-reducing, immune-supporting effects that these groups provide.

More than 20 million people in the United States have depression each year. Depression can be caused by a number of factors:

  • aging
  • hormonal changes, including hot flashes
  • genetics
  • fatigue
  • poor nutrition
  • major life change such as divorce, taking a new job, quitting smoking, etc.

If you think you're depressed, talk to your doctor. Together you can sort out if what you're feeling is depression, extreme fatigue or something else. It's also important to find out what's causing the depression. You may want to talk to an accredited psychotherapist. Therapy can help you feel supported and allow you to talk about what's bothering you. Antidepressant medicines can help ease feelings of sadness and anxiety and help you feel better.

Some complementary medicine techniques also have been shown to ease anxiety, stress, fear, and depression, including:

  • aromatherapy
  • guided imagery
  • hypnosis
  • journaling
  • massage
  • meditation
  • music therapy
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • prayer
  • support groups
  • tai chi
  • yoga

For more information on how to ease depression, read the transcript of a breastcancer.org Ask-The-Expert Conference on Overcoming Depression.

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