Accelerated telomere shortening in women with breast cancer: The buffering effect of social support against physiological stress markers

Psychological stress has been frequently implicated in disease development and progression, but the determinants of this relationship remain unclear. A recent finding has demonstrated that chronic and perceived stress affects health by influencing the rate of cellular aging. The literature also shows that social support buffers against stress. Jillian Satin is exploring the relationship among stress, social support and cellular aging in women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. While chronological age is usually used as a predictor of age-related disease, cellular aging may be a more accurate predictor of onset and a potential route of disease prevention. Jillian’s research is examining whether social support modulates the relationship between objective stressful life events and cellular aging. Since social support has been shown to decrease perceived stress, Jillian’s hypothesis is that social support decreases the accelerated rate of cellular aging. If this hypothesis is correct, it would suggest that social support interventions should be made available to those at risk and should be integrated into the health care that women with cancer receive. Although this study focuses on breast cancer, the findings could prompt further exploration into treatment of cancer and age-related diseases.