Prolactin,Stress and Breast Cancer

Prolactin,Stress and Breast Cancer

Prolactin,Stress and Breast Cancer Hi everyone have not posted for some time but feel need to at present. I read an article in a magazine talking about Kylie and her wanting to get pregnant. It said that high levels of stress can produce a hormone called prolactin that is also produced when a woman breastfeeds to stop pregnancy. I have always been absolutely convinced that stress played a big part in my two breast cancer experiences and got me thinking about whether high levels of Prolactin would possibly link to Breast Cancer. Lo and behold went on internet and there is lots of research out there about possible links.
I know there are people out there on the forums who are a lot more scientifically minded than me and wondered if anyone has got an opinion???


Hi Cath I’m not very scientifically minded, but in the 4 years before I was diagnosed, my mother died unexpectedly, I had to administer her will with a lot of aggro from my siblings and my son had an accident that nearly killed him. I had incredibly high stress levels during that period, and I refuse to believe (as some doctors would suggest) that the development of breast cancer was just a coincidence. I’m not saying it was the only factor, but it may have been the trigger.

stress and cancer It’s my feeling that individuals are often sure that stress was a major factor in developing cancer, but it’s not something that the researchers can actually prove. In many cases the stress concerned was over some time before diagnosis, and so the chemical effects may have disappeared. In my case, my father’s death and the adjustments afterwards, a difficult boss, a tiresome company takeover, my cat’s death, all compounded to create an extremely stressful 18 months. Cancer was not diagnosed for another year.

I suppose if a research programme could be initiated which checked for chemical imbalances in people who were in a stressful situation, then analysed the relationship between these and the development of disease, we might get somewhere in about 25 years.

But I do agree, stress does seem to have a part to play.

I agree Not sure over what time period you want to count the stress, but mine adds up to - breakdown of marriage, death of grandmother, moving house no less than 6 times, divorce, changing job three times, new relationship and relocating, all in short time. This doesn’t include my mother’s death when I was a child and the loss of two other grandparents within three years early in life!! I was diagnosed at 37 and in the few years before diagnosis had been through some of life’s (apparently) most challenging situations. I am sure stress must have some part to play talking with the women I have got friendly with after my diagnosis some of whom have been through even more than me in a short time.


I disagree There have been hundreds of studies done to see if there is a link between stress and cancer and when these studies are considered as a whole there is no scientific evidence to suggest a causal ink.(Among the hundreds of surveys are some which show that stressful events after diagnosis can delay recurrence!)

But many people with breast cancer (and without) do seem to believe there is a link. I think this is because in the absence of knowledge about the causes of breast cancer it is comforting to search for reasons which help us to make sense of why we got ill. If we can find our ‘own’ reasons then maybe we feel more in control?

But I think this process of myth making does no good for any of us. Stress is part of life, one woman’s painful stressor is another’s release and motivator.


causes of breast cancer if stress is a cause how come men don’t get it as often as women? I believe the cause is hormonal and the biggest risk is older age, when more genetic problems occur as the body is not as good at rectifying them. My cat got breast cancer, she hadn’t had any kittens and she was the least stressed out creature I’ve met. She lived to 18 despite cancer.


My opinion As has been said there is no scientific proof that stress can cause bc but I believe it can.

I have had it twice now and both times I was really stressed out for quite a time before hand.

I’am sure lots of other things are responsible as well, but I really do think that stress can be a factor.

Everyone of us is different and we can only speak as we find.

Best wishes.


As most women diagnosed with BC are over the age of 50 then it’s quite likely that in the previous decade they’ve gone through bereavements, divorces, house moves, child raising, redundancy…the list goes on and on.

Stress is a part of life, and i think that it’s a little simplistic to highlight it as a reason for developing BC. Plus for me at least this has a whiff of sexism about it. Is stress ever identified as a reason for prostate cancer, for example? if not, is that because it’s more acceptable for men to lead busy, varied and ultimately stressed lives?

I was diagnosed at 30 with cancer and am pretty sure this was down to some genetic fault that I was born with and had no control over.

Thanks everyone Thanks for all your comments. I think as you have said it is really difficult when you can’t identify what caused BC and I am sure many theories will continue to be put forward. We will all have our own personal beliefs. I think that what interested me about this one was that the hormone Prolactin is produced by the body to stop pregnancy during breastfeeding (don’t know if men even produce this hormone?). Stress also produces this hormone. My thinking was that there is a link between this hormone and the breast therefore if you were producing more of it than normal than could it have an effect on the growth of a tumour? Seemed more plausible than eating too many chips when I was a toddler!!!

Anyway thanks for your contributions, always helps me to feel part of the forums.

Cath x

Over expression of prolactin Interesting thread - my best friend’s daughter, at age 17 yrs was diagnosed with a benign tumour in her brain due to over expression of prolactin. She hasn’t had periods since being dx and has no bc… and is now 27 yrs old. She has been told she is very unlikely to have children - don’t ask me why, because it is a very difficult subject for my friend to discuss, so I don’t.
Just thought I would put this in the melting pot. Katie is the most laid back young lady I know, so I doubt stress is a factor in her health issue.
However, I do feel it is a factor in my bc - my twin brother died at aged 50 of a malignant brain tumour, that was inoperable, as it was wrapped all around his brain - we believe, due to his 15 yrs of working with cellular phones. He was the first Technical Director of BT Cellnet, and had worked with cellular technology for some 8 yrs prior when he was in the Army, in charge of cellular IT in Germany. Both my husband and b-in-law worked with radar in their professions as electronic engineers and they are convinced that radiation caused my brother’s tumour.

I was inconsolable, felt part of me had died. Some 2 yrs later I was dx with bc, but it was 3 yrs since my last mammo. With hindsight, I just wish I had gone privately for an annual mammo, as all my friends younger than 50 yrs do now. It only costs about £75 they tell, and what price one’s health?

I guess there are many questions we all have as to why and how we got bc, but don’t think there are any easy solutions at this time. Let’s hope there are for the next generation.


I’m convinced that stress and trauma contributed to my diagnosis. My GP said that stress does affect the immune system and its ability to deal with such things as cancer cells.

An Article on Stress and Cancer I also believe stress played a part in my diagnosis of breast cancer.
I found this article today and I hope it one of many that prove there is a link between Stress and Breast Cancer (and many other cancers).


P.S. The last letters in the address for the webpage are htm. I don’t seem to see the last letter clearly when I brought up the page on the BCC website.

stress and cancer whilst i believe that stress aggravates any condition i’m not sure that it causes cancer, as for prolactin i too had raised prolactin levels in the run up to my diagnosis and gp mentioned it a number of times post diagnosis but i have not discussed it with my oncologist yet. it does seem to be linked more and more with bc in younger women. as to it’s veracity that is i think a long way off.

very interesting and a great debate … … however - if I may have my tuppence worth - it seems that more and more women under the age of 50 are being diagnosed with BC than ever before which leads to the debate for causes of BC.

There are many women who do (or who have) suffered with PMT and this does cause women to become more stressed out than when they are

My tumors where all hormone related and hormones do become ‘overactive’ when we are involved in any stress related issues. I am not saying that my cancer was stress related. But there are coincidences surrounding them both.

Since 2002 Gary and I joined a residential group, fighting for causes we all believed in; small things such as litter, play areas and anti social behaviour etc. We were involved in a local election - which resulted in Gary being elected a local councillor - which he still is - all of this has put a terrible strain on our lives as well as our family. I was taking on more and more voluntary work and suddenly - after Christmas 2003 - I found my lump.

We talked about taking a back seat on a lot of things and tried our best to say ‘NO’ to many others. But, slowly but surely, things started to snowball and we found ourselves back on those familiar tracks of life again. This time around we are much more conscious and aware of our priorities.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer where the only charity who were researching into the increase of BC in young women - after reading an article autumn 2005. The magazine felt that some causes of BC i.e. stress, hormones, lifestyle, diet, the pill contraceptive as well as being hereditary (spelling) are factors that can trigger BC.

I find it hard to accept that the ‘big-wigs’ of cancers don’t know what causes BC or any other cancer, but that opinion is purely my own and one that I wouldn’t impress on anyone else.

Take care all and have a good weekend – what’s left of it, I’m off for a glass of vino!

Loadsa luv

Building Blocks Was told by my onc that breastcancer has many triggers or ‘building blocks’ as he called them, and that its a combination of these that cause it to develope.Some tumors may need as little as ten blocks while others need an awful lot more.But he didnt seem to think that stress was one of them.(thankfully)…and its nice to know from Jane that stress after dx may actually help keep it at bay!

I’m interested in the stress factor too.

In the 5 years leading up to my diagnosis, my dad suffered life threatening heart failure when I was visiting him. This was followed a few months later by my house being completely wrecked by a burst pipe whilst I was a way on holiday (we were insured, but lost 80% of our belongings and the house was unfit for habitation - it took 18 months to put the damage right and it had to be refurbished twice. During that time we lived in hotels and run down accommodation). As soon as the house was finished, I had to move back from London to Scotland to look after my dad as he had developed dementia, this involved living without my OH for 14 months. My dad had to go into hospital then care as I could no longer look after him. I couldn’t find a job after having a break on my CV to be a carer. OH left his job to come to Scotland and then had a very stressful employment tribunal where his case collapsed on a technicality. My sister then moved to the middle East and I was very upset over that. My father then died when she came back on holiday.

I was diagnosed 11 days before the first anniversary of my dad’s death, once again it happened when my sister was here on holiday.

I have vowed to myself when I get over the treatment for this I am going to try to avoid stressful situations as much as possible. I have spent more time in my life caring about other people and putting myself second, I am going to be more selfish and put myself first from now on for a bit.

The other way round??? I had a difficult and stressful time before my cancer was diagnosed, but I had thought that rather than the stress being the cause, it was perhaps an early symptom - the (at that time) undiagnosed cancer had contributed to the feeling of stress by lowering my ability to cope - my body was under attack, and this contributed to lower energy levels and impaired coping mechanisms.

From what I understand it can take some time (a few years - 2-10 I think I read somewhere) for cancer to develop from that first mutation to a point at which it can be found and recognised, therefore stress in the months preceeding diagnosis would be too late to be a cause…

About 2.5 - 3 years before my diagnosis I suddenly started to find work very stressful - it had always been very busy and stressful, but I’d managed that stress much better before. I went to see my doc who said I was depressed - I could pop pills or change my life - soon after this I became pregnant which was not exactly a planned change… The pregancy was OK, but I never really connected with it emotionally and it took 6+ months before I really started to connect with my son, by which time I was back at work. I was diagnosed when my boy was 1.

I am convinced that the onset of depression marked the beginning of the cancer, but I’ve always thought of it as a symptom, not a cause…

Could stress be an early symptom? Could have something there Jane.My lifes had more stressfull episodes in it than a bad soap.You name it and I’ve been there! I handled it all remarkably well until about two years before I was diagnosed when it all became too much.Instead of battling on I felt as if I was running around in circles and didn’t know which way to turn,wanted to curl up into a ball and hope it would all go away - not like me at all! Am now in remission and find my old ability to handle stress almost as good as pre bc days.