Imus wonders if "stress" caused cancer

March 17, 2009 7:34:37 AM PDT
Radio host Don Imus wondered aloud whether stress had contributed to his prostate cancer diagnosis.

Radio host Don Imus wondered aloud whether stress had contributed to his prostate cancer diagnosis.

But, top prostate cancer specuialists say, while stress may have an effect on cancer, it's not a cause.

"I am very confident we have no studies that show that stress is the sole cause of cancer, but stress can interfere with a person's ability to deal with cancer," said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. "The only risk that stress plays, in my experience and in scientific literature, is it sometimes makes it more difficult for someone to deal with the disease and actually get good therapy for it."

Dr. Leonard Gomella, of Jefferson University Hospital's Kimmel Cancer Center says studies show, "Western diets that include high levels of meat, dairy, and saturated fat may contribute to prostate cancer. And recently,folate supplements have been implicated.

The 68-year-old Imus made the announcement about his prostate cancer diagnosis Monday on his morning show and said he's confident he'll have a full recovery.

Since stress does depress the immune system, it is important to manage it, according to doctors.

"Everything somebody can do as far as meditation, prayer, yoga, exercise -- all those help prevent the recurrence of cancer," said Dr. Mitchell Gaynor of Gaynor Integrative Oncology in New York City.

The veteran radio personality said he struggled with the idea of revealing his battle to the public and added he was surprised by the diagnosis because he had been following a healthy diet for the last decade.

His lifestyle includes regular exercise and a doctor-designed diet. With a stage 2 diagnosis, Imus' chances of survival are high.

"The curability rate is high," Brawley said.

Imus said he's spoken with prostate cancer survivors former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. He said he talked to them about an issue his doctors were reluctant to discuss -- how the treatment would affect his sex life.

"The surgical procedures don't always result in sexual side effects, and if they do, they get better over a period of a month," Gaynor said.

Imus is right around the age when prostate cancer diagnoses are fairly common for men. The illness affects one in every 14 men in their 60s and it is rarely fatal, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

"Sixty-nine to 70 is usually about the age that a man is diagnosed in the United States," Brawley said. "It's only about 15 percent of men who are diagnosed before the age of 65.


And yet, even though this type of cancer has a high profile, screening for the disease isn't widespread.

"There is so much advertisement and people pushing prostate screening out there but none of the professional organizations actually recommend it," Brawley said. "The American Cancer Society actually recommends that men discuss it with their doctor and be informed of the potential risks and the potential benefits and make an informed choice."

The former shock jock has long been concerned about children with cancer, and has a charity called the Imus Ranch in Ribera, N.M., that gives kids with cancer and serious blood disorders an opportunity to experience what it's like to be a cowboy on a working cattle ranch.

The controversial host ran into trouble in spring 2007 when he made a racial slur about the Rutgers University women's basketball team and was fired by CBS Radio and MSNBC, which had both broadcast his talk show.

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