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Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Prostate & Breast Cancer

15 Mar

Researchers from the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Alberta, Calgary, investigated the effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation program on early stage breast and prostate cancer patients, examining quality of life, mood states, stress symptoms, as well as levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin.

Fifty-nine patients with breast cancer and 10 with prostate cancer enrolled in an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that incorporated relaxation, meditation, gentle yoga, and daily home practice. Data was collected on demographic and health behavior variables, along with measures of quality of life, mood, stress, and assays of salivary cortisol (assessed three times/day), plasma DHEAS, and salivary melatonin, both pre- and post-intervention. 

Forty-eight completers were assessed pre- and post-intervention. Significant improvements were seen in overall quality of life, reduced symptoms of stress, and better sleep quality, but these improvements were not significantly correlated with the degree of program attendance or minutes of home practice.  There were no significant improvements in mood disturbance.

Improvements in quality of life were associated with decreases in afternoon cortisol levels, but not with morning or evening levels. Changes in stress symptoms or mood were not related to changes in hormone levels. Approximately 40% of the sample demonstrated abnormal cortisol secretion patterns both pre- and post-intervention, but within that group patterns shifted from "inverted-V-shaped" patterns towards more "V-shaped" patterns of secretion. No overall changes in DHEAS or melatonin were found, but nonsignificant shifts in DHEAS patterns were consistent with healthier profiles for both men and women.

The MBSR program enrollment was associated with enhanced quality of life and decreased stress symptoms in breast and prostate cancer patients, resulting in beneficial changes in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning. These pilot data represent a preliminary investigation of the relationships between MBSR program participation and hormone levels, highlighting the need for better-controlled studies in this area.

Citation:  Carlson LE, Speca M, Patel KD, Goodey E. Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin in breast and prostate cancer outpatients. Psychoneuroendocrinology.2004 May; 29 (4): pages 448-74. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award