The Truth About Stress and Brain Tumors: What Science Tells Us

The Truth About Stress and Brain Tumors: What Science Tells UsYou might do your best to avoid stress, but the reality is that it's a natural part of life. In fact, many people would argue it's a natural part of the lived human experience. Short, temporary bouts of stress aren't all that bad for you either - but chronic stress is something we could all do without. 

The impacts of stress on the human body are far-reaching, but can stress cause brain tumors?

If you're interested in learning more about the different types of stress we experience, and how it could lead to tumor or cancer development, this is the blog for you. 

What is Stress?

Experiencing stress is an integral part of the human condition. It might not feel natural, but it's the body's natural reaction to perceived danger. 

There is such a thing as ''good'' stress. This is the type of stress that pushes you out of your comfort zone, it keeps you motivated and helps you achieve your goals. It can also keep you out of dangerous situations.

Stress can affect us in both a physiological and psychological way. It can also alter or damage molecules, cells, and organs throughout the body, resulting in a plethora of health conditions.

Let's take a closer look at the different types of stress: 

Acute Stress

This is the type of ''good'' stress mentioned earlier. Acute stress is short-lived, it doesn't last long, but the impacts are often beneficial. We tend to experience acute stress when brought on by specific circumstances. 

Acute stress is reactionary. For example, it helps you make snap decisions such as slamming your brakes when a car swerves in front of you. It can help you work faster if you need to meet an important deadline. 

A momentary spike in blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, sweating, and muscular tension usually accompany this type of stress. But these symptoms tend to pass quickly. 

Chronic Stress

This is a form of stress that can cause damage to all the cells in your body if you live with it for too long. 

Chronic stress means your stress response mechanism is elevated or triggered for a long period. This can take a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

While there are numerous causes of chronic stress, living with some kind of trauma is the most common. This might include an abusive relationship, living with financial hardship, or caring for a loved one with a terminal illness.

Living with chronic stress can have a dire impact on your health in the long term. 

Can Stress Cause Brain Tumors?

This brings us to the main question - can stress actually increase your risk of brain tumor development? 

Modern research on the relationship between stress and brain tumors is ongoing. However, there is an understanding that certain factors can lead to the development of brain cancer and tumors.

Some of these include: 

  • Excessive exposure to radiation including CT scans, X-rays, and radiation therapy
  • Genetics - inherited syndromes and genetic conditions can stimulate the overproduction of cells, causing brain tumors and brain cancer
  • Living with chronic stress 

Let's take a closer look at how chronic stress can increase your risk of developing cancer or a brain tumor

  • Long-term stimulation of the stress response mechanism and the hormones associated with it (i.e. cortisol) encourage tumor growth
  • Chronic stress hinders the function of the immune system in effectively eliminating cancer cells 
  • Living with long-term stress causes major inflammation throughout the body, increasing the risk of cancer 

Aside from these physiological issues, people living with chronic stress might also develop unhealthy coping techniques.

This could include smoking, drinking, drug abuse, overeating, etc. All of these factors further increase your risk of developing cancer. 

Stress and the Neuroendocrine System

This is what long-term stress does to the body and the neuroendocrine system: 

  • Chronic stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system
  • This promotes the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can stimulate the growth of tumors and certain cancers
  • Inflammation, autophagy, and epigenetics all increase the invasion capacity and growth of tumor cells
  • This alters the tumor microenvironment, which can lead to the development of cancer or brain tumor

There are more than 120 different types of brain tumors known to man based on the area that they affect. It's worth noting that not all brain tumors are brain cancer. Many tumors are noncancerous (benign) but could pose a danger to your health because of their location or size. 

So, what are the symptoms of brain tumor or brain cancer? They might differ from person to person depending on the size and location of the tumor: 

  • Frequent headaches 
  • Convulsions or seizure-like episodes 
  • Speech interferences - difficulty finding, speaking, or thinking of words
  • Behavior or personality shifts 
  • Paralysis in one part or on one side of the body 
  • Frequent bouts of dizziness or loss of balance
  • A loss of hearing or vision changes 
  • Disorientation or confusion 
  • A loss of memory 

It's important to point out that you could have a brain tumor, and not have any obvious symptoms. One of the most common brain tumor types in adults is the meningioma.

It grows very slowly and might go unnoticed for many years until it becomes large enough to interfere with surrounding tissue inside the brain. 

If you or a loved one have one or more of the above symptoms it's important to seek out professional help right away. It doesn't always mean you could have a brain tumor, but it's better to get yourself checked sooner, rather than later.

Brain Tumor Support, Just a Click Away 

So, can stress cause brain tumors? The short answer to this is yes - but it also depends on a myriad of factors. There is no black-and-white answer because stress impacts the human body in so many different ways. 

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor, CT Brain Tumor Alliance is here to offer the support you need throughout your recovery journey. We aim to provide hope, support, community, and awareness in research and quality of care.

Learn more about how we can help you or a loved one by scheduling a visit at one of our treatment centers today. 


All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and nothing herein shall be construed as medical advice.  Always consult your medical provider for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any medical decisions.  

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