Anger is a negative emotion that can follow frustration, disappointment, and injustice.
It can vary from mild and short-term to intense and long-term. It is the intense and long-term variety, what we have called unhealthy anger that concerns us here, (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015).
To begin answering the question concerning the link between anger and cancer, let us start with a quotation that may be an overstatement and then let us get more precise. Groer, Davis, Droppleman, Mozingo, and Pierce (2000) made the following general statement: “Extremely low anger scores have been noted in numerous studies of patients with cancer. Such low scores suggest suppression, repression, or restraint of anger.
There is evidence to show that suppressed anger can be a precursor to the development of cancer, and also a factor in its progression after diagnosis.” Notice that their conclusion centers on a certain type of anger, that which is not overtly expressed but instead, to use a common expression, is bottled up.
Our next question, then, is to look for supporting evidence of this claim of suppressed anger relating to cancer, and we find it in the early study by Greer and Morris (1975). In a sample of 160 women, they report a statistically-significant relationship between what they call extreme suppression of anger and breast cancer. Notice the suppression of the anger is not a normal kind of restraint, but instead is extreme in rarely, if ever, being vented. This relationship might be caused by the cancer itself in that people get angry because of the diagnosis. Yet, in another early study, Pettingale, Greer, & Tee (1977) followed 160 women over a two year period prior to a diagnosis of cancer and subsequently after the diagnosis was made.
They found that those with breast cancer (even before the diagnosis was made) who “habitually suppressed anger” had longitudinal patterns of increased serum Immunoglobulin A levels (implicated in some autoimmune diseases) compared to those who did not suppress their anger.
We need to ask, based on the above, whether it is certain kinds of cancer that are connected with anger or whether we have a general trend. One observation comes from Boerma (2007) as cited in Hendricks, Vore, Aslinia, & Morriss (2013), in which unhealthy anger is implicated in immune system compromise in general: “Anger also causes the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. Release of this hormone gives the body bursts of energy.
However, too much of this hormone can cause a multitude of negative effects on the body. Too much cortisol in the body can cause an imbalance in blood sugar; it can suppress thyroid function, and decrease bone density. This hormonal imbalance also impacts the body’s immune system. Research shows that chronic-angry people suffer more frequent colds, flu’s infections, asthma, skin disease flare-ups and arthritis, as compared to non-chronic-angry people (Boerma, 2007).”
The Anger and Cancer Connection
By Paul Haider
Is There a Connection Between Anger and Cancer?
If the immune system can be compromised in some people who harbor unhealthy anger (intense and over long periods), then there may be a more general link between this form of anger and cancers. Yet, in a large (over 19,000) study over 9 years, there was no connection between reported levels of anger and breast cancer. There was, however, a small and statistically-significant relationship with prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers (White, English, Coates, Lagerlund, Borland, et al., 2007).
We must be cautious with these findings for our purpose here because the anger assessment only concerned whether or not that anger was expressed or not. There was no measure of the intensity or longevity of the anger. Their measure of negative affect included different kinds of emotions, not just anger. The association of suppressed anger in particular and prostate cancer is discussed in Penedo, Dahn, Kinsinger, Antoni, Molton, et al. (2006). These researchers report a stronger presence of the natural killer cell cytotoxicity (NKCC) when anger was not suppressed in a sample of 61 men.
To date, there are remarkably few studies of the anger and cancer link. The research to date does suggest a link, particularly with regard to intense and persistent anger that is suppressed. That link to date does not suggest a general association between suppressed anger and all types of cancers, but may be implicated in certain cancers such as breast cancer (although the findings are not consistent), and prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers.
Perhaps it is time for both medicine and psychology to unite in a new angle in the fight against certain cancers by continuing to examine the anger — cancer link. If the findings as above continue, we need to find ways of reducing anger in particular when it is intense, abiding, and not expressed. This may be part of a regimen for cancer prevention, at least for certain kinds of cancers and for people who have a family history of these.
One study showed that those with anger and cancer (and especially suppressed anger) had a much higher amount of stress… and thus with stress chemicals in their body can lead to physiological changes in the body.
A study at King’s College Hospital in London with cancer patients with suppressed anger showed a distinct correlation between having anger and cancer.
The University of Tennessee showed that suppressed anger was a precursor to developing cancer.
At Yale University, Dr. Bernie Siegel collected 57 very well documented cases of angry people who came down with cancer. And when they decided that anger and depression were not helping anything they became, loving, kind , caring and let go of all anger…. thus their cancer started to shrink. – Amazing!
The National Institute of Health said: “Research with animal models suggests “your body’s neuroendocrine response (release of hormones into your blood in response to stimulation of your nervous system) can directly alter important processes in cells that help protect against the formation of cancer, such as DNA repair and the regulation of cell growth.”
The California Department of Health Services and NHI showed a fourfold increase in death from cancer for those who suppressed their anger.
Research at Stanford University showed that powerful emotions cause a flood of cortisol (a stress hormone) that predicted early death in women with breast cancer. The Journal of the American Medical Association said: “A study comparing long-term survivors of breast cancer with those who did not survive, scientists at John Hopkins University found that long-term survivors expressed much higher levels of anxiety, hostility and other negative emotions. Patients who were able to express their feelings lived longer than those who had difficulty in doing so.”
Some Solutions to ANGER !!!!
Losing your cool at the slightest provocation?
Protect your chill vibe and your physical health with these strategies for constructively dealing with anger, courtesy of psychologist Harriet Lerner, bestselling author of The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships (2005).
1. Speak up when an issue is important to you. While you don’t need to address every irritation or injustice that comes along, if the cost of staying silent is becoming bitter or resentful, it’s best to make your feelings known.
2. Strike when the iron is cold. Avoid speaking up in the heat of the moment when you’re feeling angry and intense. If you feel your temperature rising in the middle of a conversation, try saying, “I need a little time to sort out my thoughts. Let’s set up another time to talk about this.”
3. Take time out to think about the problem and clarify your position. Think clearly about what you want to say, how to say it, and when. Angry confrontations only invite the other person to become defensive and see you as the problem.
4. Don’t use below-the-belt tactics. These include blaming, interpreting, diagnosing, labeling, analyzing, preaching, moralizing, ordering, warning, interrogating, ridiculing, and lecturing.
5. Use “I” language. Say, “I think,” “I feel,” “I fear,” “I want.” A true “I” statement says something about you without criticizing or blaming the other person, and without holding them responsible for your feelings or reactions.
6. Keep it short and kind. It’s powerful to say, “I left our conversation feeling like a smaller person who disappointed you,” and leave it at that. This takes more courage than lecturing or criticizing the person for being insensitive or disrespectful.
7. Appreciate that people are different. If you’re fighting about who’s right or wrong, you may be missing the point. Different perspectives and ways of reacting do not necessarily mean that one person is right and the other wrong. Don’t tell another person what they think or feel, or what they should think or feel.
8. Recognize that each person is responsible for their own actions. Be angry at the right person. Don’t blame your mother-in-law because she’s overbearing and oversteps boundaries, for example. Setting—and maintaining—clear boundaries is your and your husband’s responsibility.
9. Stop trying to convince others that you’re right. If the other person isn’t hearing you, simply say, “Well, it may sound crazy to you, but this is how I feel,” or, “I understand that you disagree, but I guess we see the problem differently.”
10. Never use text or email to express your anger or to process an emotional issue. Confrontational texts or emails will only send a conversation downhill swiftly. No exceptions.
11. Don’t expect change to come about from hit-and-run confrontations. Change occurs slowly in close relationships. If you make even a small change, you will be tested many times to see if you really mean it.