Spirituality can promote the health of breast cancer survivors

MU study finds link between forgiveness, congregational support and neuroimmune biomarkers.

July 9, 2021


Brian Consiglio: Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the United States, and survivors of the disease are often at risk for the breast cancer reoccurring due to chronic emotional stress.

Jennifer Hulett, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing, is researching the benefits of spirituality on improving immune health and reducing stress among survivors of breast cancer.

Hulett: “We know chronic stress is associated with ongoing immune inflammation, which is linked with an increased risk in breast cancer reoccurrence, so if we can find a way to reduce stress in breast cancer survivors, we may also be able to reduce the risk of immune inflammation.”

Consiglio: In a recent study, Hulett found that practicing forgiveness and receiving positive social support from their congregation or other social support networks were linked with two specific neuroimmune biomarkers in breast cancer survivors. The findings can be used to help evaluate the impact of mindfulness interventions, such as daily prayer, yoga and meditation, on survivors’ immune health.

Hulett: “These results confirm that spiritual and religious beliefs and practices are associated with neuroimmune activity, and that sets a foundation for future research that incorporates religious and spiritual beliefs to create and study interventions for breast cancer survivors in terms of promoting physical health and well-being.”

Consiglio: For more on this research, visit showme.missouri.edu.

I’m Brian Consiglio, with a Spotlight on Mizzou

Learn more about the research here

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