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Stress & HPV

March 29, 2009 8:39:52 AM PDT
The Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. While most men and women clear the infection naturally, a few don't. And in some cases, that can lead to cervical cancer. Now a new study shows stress may play a role in fighting HPV. Betsy Longstreth has a full time job. She also has a house to run and a family to take care of, including three children and six grandchildren.

"I think I probably have everybody's normal daily stresses. I don't feel like I'm a stressed person," she said.

That's good because researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center say there may be a link between how stressed you feel and cervical cancer.

The doctors there studied the immune systems of women with pre-cancerous cervical cells. The woman also filled out surveys on how well they thought they coped with day-to-day hassles.

"What we found was that women who reported that they perceived a lot of stress over the past month were less likely to show an immune response to HPV," said researcher Carolyn Fang, Ph.D.

Whether stress, in fact, hurts the body's ability to fight HPV is still unclear, but the researchers say the message to women who feel overwhelmed is clear.

"Read a book, take a bath, have a message. All of those things. Whatever makes you feel better relieves your stress is a healthy step to take," Fang said.

That's why Betsy, who also took part in the study, said she walks everyday and practices yoga.

Doctors at Fox Chase Cancer Center are still looking for answers. They're enrolling more women for this study. They're looking for women with abnormal pap smear results to study the effects of stress reduction on HPV.

For more information, call 1-866- 544-7232.

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