Stress may affect cervical dysplasia progression

April 17, 2008

Stress may play a role in the development of cervical cancer by impairing the body’s cell-mediated immune response to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, facilitating progression of cervical disease, according to an article published in the February issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Stress may play a role in the development of cervical cancer by impairing the body’s cell-mediated immune response to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, facilitating progression of cervical disease, according to an article published in the February issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Carolyn Y. Fang, PhD, of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and colleagues investigated the relationship between psychosocial stress and immune response to HPV16, a viral strain associated with a high risk for cervical cancer. The researchers surveyed 74 women with abnormal cervical cytology presenting for colposcopy on their health behaviors, stressful life events, and perceived stress, and they tested blood samples for T-cell response to HPV16. HPV typing was performed on cervical samples obtained during gynecologic exams.

More than 55% of patients tested positive for at least one HPV subtype, with 50% testing positive for high-risk HPV subtypes. Patients testing positive for HPV16 were less likely to have proliferative immune response than HPV16-negative patients were. Furthermore, logistic regression showed that higher levels of perceived stress were associated with lack of immune response to HPV16.

The authors conclude, “Given that impaired T-cell response to HPV is predictive of cervical disease progression, the association between perceived stress and cell-mediated immune response to HPV offers support for a biobehavioral model of cervical cancer risk, especially among immunocompetent women.”

Fang CY, Miller SM, Bovbjerg DH, et al. Perceived Stress is Associated with Impaired T-Cell Response to HPV16 in Women with Cervical Dysplasia. Ann Behav Med. 2008;35:87-96. Published online at doi:10.1007/s12160-007-9007-6.