01 June 2015

New hope for breast cancer – with implications for prevention as well as survival

Breakthrough research demonstrates mindfulness and emotional expression maintain telomeres and offers new hope to women affected by breast cancer.

Speaking generally, people diagnosed with cancer who have shorter telomeres are more likely to die of that cancer than those with longer telomeres. Theoretically, anything that preserves telomeres, or better still, lengthens them could well lead to higher rates of survival, even recovery.

Considering breast cancer specifically, telomere length (TL) has been associated with prognosis. Again, the longer the telomeres, the longer the survival.

So this week, we report on a landmark study that shows learning mindfulness and emotional expression in a group setting offers new hope to women affected by breast cancer, but first

           Thought for the day

                   Meditation is acceptance. 
                   It is the acceptance of life 
                  Within us, 
                  Without us, 
                  And all around us. 

                  Acceptance of life 
                 Is the beginning of human satisfaction.

                                       Sri Chinmoy

Previous research has shown that group psychosocial interventions including mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR) and supportive-expressive group therapy (SET) can help breast cancer survivors decrease distress and influence cortisol levels.

This is the first randomized controlled trial to examine how mindfulness and emotional expression impact on telomere length (TL) in women affected by breast cancer.

Eighty-eight distressed breast cancer survivors with a diagnosis of stage I to III cancer who had completed treatment at least 3 months prior participated.

They were separated into three groups  - one was asked to attend eight weekly, 90-minute group sessions that provided instructions on mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga. These participants were asked to practice meditation and yoga at home for 45 minutes daily.
The second group met up for 90 minutes each week for the three months and supported and guided by well-trained group leaders were encouraged to talk openly about their concerns and feelings.

The third control group simply attended a one day, six hour stress management seminar.
Before and after the study, all participants had their blood analysed and their telomere length measured.

Both groups who attended the support groups maintained their telomere length over the three-month period, while the telomeres of the control group had shortened.

The two groups who attended the therapeutic group sessions also reported lower stress levels and better moods.

Very interesting. MBRC and SET had almost the same positive effect on telomere length when compared to the control group. In both the MCBR and SET groups, telomere length was maintained, whereas it was found to decrease for those in the control group. It seems either MBRC or SET led to about the same benefit.

Curiously, there were no associations noted between changes in TL and changes in mood or stress scores over time.

Curiously, because previous studies that have examined the impact of group therapies on survival times for people affected by cancer have indeed demonstrated a strong correlation between state of mind and outcome.

To summarise, those groups studied that led to measurable improvements in  “quality of life" - (in inverted commas because quality of life is a broad term), generally were associated with increased survival times for the participants.

Where there was no improvement in quality of life following participation in a group, generally there was no increase in survival times.

The conclusion many reached based on these observations has been that a well run group will lead to improvements in quality of life for its participants, and that translates into or has a correlation with longer survival times. There is a certain logic to this.

Curious then that in this study, no association was found between telomere lengths and mood or stress levels. The researchers postulated on a number of reasons for this, but hopefully, it will not be long before more research groups look into the intriguing relationships between cancer, telomeres and the mind studied in this important piece of research and we will come to learn more of the science in this fascinating and important area..

Although this research is pretty exciting, it is still not known if these benefits will be long-term or what is causing this biological effect. But for now, we can take heart. This study does suggest that telomeres can be preserved. It is reasonable to suppose that if telomeres remain longer, then survival times may well go up.

Hopefully, this study will be followed up so that the effect of learning and practising mindfulness and emotional expression in a group setting on survival times for women with breast cancer will be reported. Many would anticipate from personal experience that those findings also will be positive.

This study has made the important contribution of demonstrating that a psychosocial intervention that lasted only 3 months and that taught and supported either mindfulness-based stress reduction or emotional support resulted in telomere length stabilisation in distressed breast cancer survivors, compared with decreases in those offered usual care.

Speaking more generally, these results provide provocative new data that suggest it is possible to influence telomere length in cancer survivors through the use of psychosocial interventions involving group support, emotional expression, stress reduction, and mindfulness meditation. By implication, the findings are of great interest for the prevention of breast cancer.

More research please.

Carlson, L. E. et al. (Feb 2015), Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors. Cancer, 121: 476–484. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29063

Service your car? Of course! Service your telomeres? What? – Examines how everyone can support their telomeres – and what the benefits are.

Is this the elixir of youth? – More on telomeres including another landmark study, this time from Dean Ornish, that showed a lifestyle-based group intervention increased telomerase levels in men affected by prostate cancer, and that this translated into longer telomeres after 5 years.


Product B - Herbal telomere support approved by the Australian TGA: CLICK HERE

– Coming soon

Brisbane day workshop - Sunday, June 14th, 2015

A Relaxing, Regenerative Meditation Intensive 

Designed for experienced meditators, but definitely open to those newer to meditation

Date        Sunday, June 14th, 2015 from 10am (arrive 9.30) to 5pm
Venue     The Relaxation Centre, 15 South Pine Rd, Alderley, Brisbane
Enquiries and Bookings    The Relaxation Centre        Telephone: 07 3856 3733

Cairns Weekend Meditation Intensive 
June 20 and 21 – Non-residential

Meditation is the greatest gift you can give to yourself, or someone you care for

Date              Saturday, Sunday 20th and 21st June. Starts 10am (arrive 9.30) to 5pm
Venue           Khacho Yulo Ling Buddhist Centre, 348 Severin Street, Cairns
Enquiries      Call  07 4041 5556    or email   info@yuloling.com
Bookings      Online, go to :  www.yuloling.com     or call Rinchen    07 4041 5556

Medicine of the Mind  
Cairns Evening Public Lecture – June 23

For everyone interested in the power within 

Date                Tuesday 23rd June, 2015      Starts 7pm (arrive 6.30) to 10pm
Venue             Khacho Yulo Ling Buddhist Centre, 348 Severin St
Enquiries        Call  07 4041 5556    or email   info@yuloling.com
Bookings        Online, go to :  www.yuloling.com     or call Rinchen    07 4041 5556

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