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News

Greater risk of cancer for fearful types

University Of Chicago : 22 June, 2007  (Technical Article)
According to a University of Chicago study that might have implications for humans, a fearful personality increases the risk of cancer in rats. Researchers found that female rats hesitant to explore their surroundings were more likely to develop breast cancer than adventuresome rats.
The study, published in the journal Hormones and Behaviour, included 81 female rats that were genetically prone to develop breast and pituitary cancers.

The rats were tested at 20 days and 11 months (middle age for rats). For five minutes, rats were introduced into new surroundings, with nonthreatening items such as toys, and researchers measured how far they wandered.

By middle age, 80 percent of the fearful rats had developed breast cancer, compared with 38 percent of the adventuresome rats. Among rats that developed pituitary tumors, the fearful ones died more quickly.

'We're trying to use these animals as a model for what we think is happening in humans,' said U. of C. grad student Jason Yee, a co-author of the study. 'Humans and rats share a lot of physiological characteristics.'

The findings might be related to the reproductive hormones released during the rats' estrous cycles: The adventuresome rats had longer and more regular cycles than the fearful rats.

Most human studies on personality and cancer examine survival after patients have been diagnosed with cancer. 'Human studies may need to consider more basic behavior traits than those already considered,' said Martha McClintock, a study co-author.
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