Life events, cortisol and levels of prostate specific antigen: a story of synergism.

Faculty of Medicine & Pharmacy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium.
Psychoneuroendocrinology (Impact Factor: 5.14). 12/2010; 36(6):874-80. DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.11.011
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Previous studies have tested the relationship between stressful life events (LE) and cancer onset, but inconsistent results have been found. One possibility is that the LE-cancer relation may depend on other biological factors pertinent to stress and cancer.
This study examined the relationship between LE and prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels, a tumor marker, and whether cortisol mediates or moderates a LE-PSA relationship. During a voluntary screening for prostate cancer risk, 139 men (mean age=57.3 years) were assessed with the Holmes and Rahe questionnaire about their LE during the past 1-5 years, and their PSA and serum cortisol levels were measured.
LE and cortisol alone were unrelated to PSA. However, statistically controlling for age, body mass index and the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol, we found evidence for a synergistic interaction between LE and cortisol. Among men with low cortisol, number of LE were inversely and significantly correlated with PSA (r=-0.265, p<0.05), while in men with high cortisol, number of LE were positively and significantly correlated with PSA (r=0.344, p<0.01). These results more consistently stemmed from the effects of uncontrollable LE. Similar results were found, using a clinically significant PSA cut-off.
These results suggest considering the joint effects of psychosocial and biological factors in relation to possible cancer risk, where the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis may moderate stress-cancer risk associations.

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    ABSTRACT: Psychological factors and stressful life events (LE) are considered to play a role in the onset of the metabolic syndrome (MS). We tested the association between LE and cortisol, a marker of chronic stress, with the risk of developing MS and their interaction. From a total number of 2906 men who completed a screening for the early detection of prostate cancer, 149 healthy men (mean ± SD age, 58.6 ± 7.7 years) were included in this study. Participants were assessed by the Holmes and Rahe questionnaire about their experience of LE during the previous 1-5 years. MS was diagnosed according to National Cholesterol Education Program-Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP-III) and International Diabetes Federation (IDF) criteria. Serum cortisol was measured at 08:00-09:00 h. Participants with MS (IDF criteria) reported significantly more past LE (p = 0.009) and greater summed weight of LE (p = 0.049) than those without MS. Furthermore, LE interacted with cortisol in relation to MS: in men with increased serum cortisol levels ( ≥ 13.7 μg/dl), number of LE significantly predicted MS-status (relative risk (RR) = 1.16, p = 0.03), whereas in men with low cortisol, LE were unrelated to MS (p = 0.52). We conclude that LE were significantly more prevalent in men with the MS than without the MS, according to IDF criteria, independent of the effects of age and body mass index, especially in men with increased serum cortisol levels.
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