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Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Linked to Improved Cancer Outcomes

Updated: Dec 25, 2020

In case you’ve wondered whether stress reduction can impact your cancer outcome, this article, published in a well-regarded peer-reviewed journal (Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, April 2019) should give you confidence that it does. The findings are based on a random-control study (the scientific gold standard), conducted by researchers at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the School of Nursing at Loyola University in Chicago.

The study documents that mindfulness-based stress reduction practices (MBSR) for women diagnosed with early breast cancer not only provide psychological benefits, but also optimize immune function supportive of cancer control. Said another way, MBSR helps to optimize immune function which, in turn, helps to combat breast cancer. For those with a cancer diagnosis, knowing which interventions have science behind them can help to separate out popular practices from those backed by evidence. The findings of this study present powerful insights for you to create an individualized, data-driven, anti-cancer strategy.

Design of the Study

124 women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer were randomized for an 8-week mindful based stress reduction program (MBSR) or an 8-week active control condition (ACC - otherwise known as a placebo control). Both groups had similar immune measures (IL-6 production, IL-6 plasma, TNF alpha plasma, NKCA, IFN gamma production) prior to starting MBSR or the ACC. Women completed psychometric instruments and provided blood for NKCA and cytokine levels at pre-,mid-, and completion of program, as well as at 1- and 6-months post-program (9 months in total).


Women randomized to the MBSR group exhibited less perceived stress, less fatigue, less sleep disturbance, and less depressive symptoms. They also exhibited significantly more rapid restoration of natural killer cytokine activity (NKCA), accompanied by lower circulating tumor necrosis factor-alpha levels (TNF), lower interleukin-6 production (IL-6 ), and greater IFN-gamma production (Interferon-gamma production).

The Takeaway

Mindfulness-based stress reduction for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer optimizes the functioning of your immune system, which in turn, "fosters favorable breast cancer outcomes." (1)

"Optimizing immune competence fosters favorable breast cancer outcomes."

The study is also suggestive that MBSR can be a powerful tool in fighting other cancer types in addition to preventing cancer recurrence.

This study offers clear proof that mindfulness-based stress reduction strategies should be part of a larger care plan to support better cancer outcomes. At CCLM we offer MBSR as part of our core stress reduction programming. In addition to this, we offer mindfulness-based yoga classes that are led by instructors who understand cancer firsthand and infuse cancer-related language and insights into your practices.

Our next weekly Friday blog post (January 1st, 2021) will discuss the mechanism by which chronic stress promotes cancer development and will provide some key action steps you can take to address chronic stress. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for a notification of this post and others containing useful information.

Contact us if you are interested in any of our program offerings, wish to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, or for any general inquiries:


(1), Witek Janusek L, Tell D, Mathews HL. Mindfulness based stress reduction provides psychological benefit and restores immune function of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer: A randomized trial with active control. Brain Behav Immun. 2019 Aug;80:358-373. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2019.04.012. Epub 2019 Apr 3. PMID: 30953776.

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