Arizona Advanced Medicine Clinic

Inflammation and Cancer - Is There a Link?

An excellent definition of oxidative comes out of a review paper published in 2010 on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website:

Oxidative stress is defined as an imbalance between production of free radicals and reactive metabolites, so-called oxidants or reactive oxygen species (ROS), and their elimination by protective mechanisms, referred to as antioxidants.[1]

Electron transfer to oxygen occurs at the level of the electron transport chain in the cell membranes of the mitochondria - the little structures within the cell which produce our energy and help us dispose of our cellular waste (free electrons) as long as we provide them with the appropriate trash cans to dispose of the wastes. These trash cans are called anti-oxidants.

Under conditions of sustained stress, and depletion of anti-oxidants, the mitochondrial electron transport chain becomes overwhelmed.

Some level of ROS is a perfectly normal state of affairs within the cell, producing molecules which let the body know that trash-collection is needed, ROS being the normal end-product of cellular metabolism. “… aerobic cells produce ROS such as superoxide anion (O2-), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hydroxyl radical (OH•), and organic peroxides as normal products of the biological reduction of molecular oxygen”.[2]

A little ROS stimulates the call for anti-inflammatory molecules. A lot of ROS is, on the other hand, quite damaging to the body. Excessive ROS stimulates growth factors, cell cycle regulators, and more damaging types of ROS which can in fact alter or destroy mitochondrial DNA, and eventually the DNA of the cell itself.

Initiation of cancer has been linked to this form of DNA damage.[3] Protection against such damage is provided by several enzymes - superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione reductase, catalase - as well as anti-oxidant substances like glutathione (GSH), Vitamin C, and Vitamin D.

Rudolf Virchow first noted in 1863, that inflammatory cells are present within tumors, and that tumors appear to arise at the site of chronic inflammation.[4] The link between ulcerative colitis and colon cancer is well established, with “cumulative probabilities of [development of colon cancer of] 2% by 10 years, 8% by 20 years, and 18% by 30 years”.[5]

Tumor-associated macrophages are a major component of almost all tumors.[6] Macrophages are essential cells for wound healing, and tumors have been described as “wounds that never heal”. Tumors appear to co-opt the wound healing process, and turn it into a wound-perpetuating process - as has been demonstrated in the zebrafish embryo.[7]

Now, finally, it begins to make sense that emotional wounds can also be linked with cancer development. If we believe in the concept of “as above, so below”, if we truly understand that our minds, our emotions and our bodies are not separate entities, but one living organism, then finally we begin to connect the dots between the intolerable situation we experienced as a child, and which we never expressed or discharged, and the colon cancer which developed in the organ the body uses to discharge its wastes.

A review of PubMed using the search terms “emotional wound”, “forgiveness”, and “cancer” brought up no articles relevant to the emotional aspect of the wound, but plenty of articles about the emotional aspects of dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. Using the search terms “forgiveness” and “stress” brought up 60 articles, but only one article related to cancer[8] – and that article talked about self-forgiveness after the diagnosis was already made.

A Google search using the same terms brought up over 2 million hits. Fox News has a segment with Dr. Michael Barry, who discusses the relationship between the immune system and stress, which he relates to lack of forgiveness.[9] He likens it to trying to drive a car with the parking brake on - dragging around a lot of excess baggage. He is careful to note that there is no research on the subject - but at least he discusses the concept.

So, if we can buy the concept that psychological stress causes inflammation on the physical level, then it's not too far a leap to the place where finding something “impossible to swallow” results eventually in cancer of the throat or the esophagus, where being “suffocated by a relationship” leads to asthma or lung cancer, where being unable to let go of something results in irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, ulcerative colitis or colon cancer.

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, not only do we treat the body with therapies that help heal the physical illness, we also make every effort to help our patients make these stress-linked connections, so that they can heal on all levels.


[1] Reuter S, Gupta SC, Chaturvedi MM, Aggarwal BB. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: how are they linked? Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Dec 1;49(11):1603-16. [2] ibid [3] Visconti R, Grieco D. New insights on oxidative stress in cancer. Curr Opin Drug Discov Devel 2009;12:240-245. [4] Fran Balkwill, Alberto Mantovani, Inflammation and cancer: back to Virchow? Lancet 2001; 357: 539-45.

Electron transfer to oxygen occurs at the level of the electron transport chain in the cell membranes of the mitochondria - the little structures within the cell which produce our energy and help us dispose of our cellular waste (free electrons) as long as we provide them with the appropriate trash cans to dispose of the wastes. These trash cans are called anti-oxidants.

Under conditions of sustained stress, and depletion of anti-oxidants, the mitochondrial electron transport chain becomes overwhelmed.

Some level of ROS is a perfectly normal state of affairs within the cell, producing molecules which let the body know that trash-collection is needed, ROS being the normal end-product of cellular metabolism. “… aerobic cells produce ROS such as superoxide anion (O2-), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hydroxyl radical (OH•), and organic peroxides as normal products of the biological reduction of molecular oxygen”.[2]

A little ROS stimulates the call for anti-inflammatory molecules. A lot of ROS is, on the other hand, quite damaging to the body. Excessive ROS stimulates growth factors, cell cycle regulators, and more damaging types of ROS which can in fact alter or destroy mitochondrial DNA, and eventually the DNA of the cell itself.

Initiation of cancer has been linked to this form of DNA damage.[3] Protection against such damage is provided by several enzymes - superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione reductase, catalase - as well as anti-oxidant substances like glutathione (GSH), Vitamin C, and Vitamin D.

Rudolf Virchow first noted in 1863, that inflammatory cells are present within tumors, and that tumors appear to arise at the site of chronic inflammation.[4] The link between ulcerative colitis and colon cancer is well established, with “cumulative probabilities of [development of colon cancer of] 2% by 10 years, 8% by 20 years, and 18% by 30 years”.[5]

Tumor-associated macrophages are a major component of almost all tumors.[6] Macrophages are essential cells for wound healing, and tumors have been described as “wounds that never heal”. Tumors appear to co-opt the wound healing process, and turn it into a wound-perpetuating process - as has been demonstrated in the zebrafish embryo.[7]

Now, finally, it begins to make sense that emotional wounds can also be linked with cancer development. If we believe in the concept of “as above, so below”, if we truly understand that our minds, our emotions and our bodies are not separate entities, but one living organism, then finally we begin to connect the dots between the intolerable situation we experienced as a child, and which we never expressed or discharged, and the colon cancer which developed in the organ the body uses to discharge its wastes.

A review of PubMed using the search terms “emotional wound”, “forgiveness”, and “cancer” brought up no articles relevant to the emotional aspect of the wound, but plenty of articles about the emotional aspects of dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. Using the search terms “forgiveness” and “stress” brought up 60 articles, but only one article related to cancer[8] – and that article talked about self-forgiveness after the diagnosis was already made.

A Google search using the same terms brought up over 2 million hits. Fox News has a segment with Dr. Michael Barry, who discusses the relationship between the immune system and stress, which he relates to lack of forgiveness.[9] He likens it to trying to drive a car with the parking brake on - dragging around a lot of excess baggage. He is careful to note that there is no research on the subject - but at least he discusses the concept.

So, if we can buy the concept that psychological stress causes inflammation on the physical level, then it's not too far a leap to the place where finding something “impossible to swallow” results eventually in cancer of the throat or the esophagus, where being “suffocated by a relationship” leads to asthma or lung cancer, where being unable to let go of something results in irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, ulcerative colitis or colon cancer.

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, not only do we treat the body with therapies that help heal the physical illness, we also make every effort to help our patients make these stress-linked connections, so that they can heal on all levels.


[1] Reuter S, Gupta SC, Chaturvedi MM, Aggarwal BB. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: how are they linked? Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Dec 1;49(11):1603-16. [2] ibid [3] Visconti R, Grieco D. New insights on oxidative stress in cancer. Curr Opin Drug Discov Devel 2009;12:240-245.

A little ROS stimulates the call for anti-inflammatory molecules. A lot of ROS is, on the other hand, quite damaging to the body. Excessive ROS stimulates growth factors, cell cycle regulators, and more damaging types of ROS which can in fact alter or destroy mitochondrial DNA, and eventually the DNA of the cell itself.

Initiation of cancer has been linked to this form of DNA damage.[3] Protection against such damage is provided by several enzymes - superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione reductase, catalase - as well as anti-oxidant substances like glutathione (GSH), Vitamin C, and Vitamin D.

Rudolf Virchow first noted in 1863, that inflammatory cells are present within tumors, and that tumors appear to arise at the site of chronic inflammation.[4] The link between ulcerative colitis and colon cancer is well established, with “cumulative probabilities of [development of colon cancer of] 2% by 10 years, 8% by 20 years, and 18% by 30 years”.[5]

Tumor-associated macrophages are a major component of almost all tumors.[6] Macrophages are essential cells for wound healing, and tumors have been described as “wounds that never heal”. Tumors appear to co-opt the wound healing process, and turn it into a wound-perpetuating process - as has been demonstrated in the zebrafish embryo.[7]

Now, finally, it begins to make sense that emotional wounds can also be linked with cancer development. If we believe in the concept of “as above, so below”, if we truly understand that our minds, our emotions and our bodies are not separate entities, but one living organism, then finally we begin to connect the dots between the intolerable situation we experienced as a child, and which we never expressed or discharged, and the colon cancer which developed in the organ the body uses to discharge its wastes.

A review of PubMed using the search terms “emotional wound”, “forgiveness”, and “cancer” brought up no articles relevant to the emotional aspect of the wound, but plenty of articles about the emotional aspects of dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. Using the search terms “forgiveness” and “stress” brought up 60 articles, but only one article related to cancer[8] – and that article talked about self-forgiveness after the diagnosis was already made.

A Google search using the same terms brought up over 2 million hits. Fox News has a segment with Dr. Michael Barry, who discusses the relationship between the immune system and stress, which he relates to lack of forgiveness.[9] He likens it to trying to drive a car with the parking brake on - dragging around a lot of excess baggage. He is careful to note that there is no research on the subject - but at least he discusses the concept.

So, if we can buy the concept that psychological stress causes inflammation on the physical level, then it's not too far a leap to the place where finding something “impossible to swallow” results eventually in cancer of the throat or the esophagus, where being “suffocated by a relationship” leads to asthma or lung cancer, where being unable to let go of something results in irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, ulcerative colitis or colon cancer.

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, not only do we treat the body with therapies that help heal the physical illness, we also make every effort to help our patients make these stress-linked connections, so that they can heal on all levels.


[1] Reuter S, Gupta SC, Chaturvedi MM, Aggarwal BB. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: how are they linked? Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Dec 1;49(11):1603-16. [2] ibid

Tumor-associated macrophages are a major component of almost all tumors.[6] Macrophages are essential cells for wound healing, and tumors have been described as “wounds that never heal”. Tumors appear to co-opt the wound healing process, and turn it into a wound-perpetuating process - as has been demonstrated in the zebrafish embryo.[7]

Now, finally, it begins to make sense that emotional wounds can also be linked with cancer development. If we believe in the concept of “as above, so below”, if we truly understand that our minds, our emotions and our bodies are not separate entities, but one living organism, then finally we begin to connect the dots between the intolerable situation we experienced as a child, and which we never expressed or discharged, and the colon cancer which developed in the organ the body uses to discharge its wastes.

A review of PubMed using the search terms “emotional wound”, “forgiveness”, and “cancer” brought up no articles relevant to the emotional aspect of the wound, but plenty of articles about the emotional aspects of dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. Using the search terms “forgiveness” and “stress” brought up 60 articles, but only one article related to cancer[8] – and that article talked about self-forgiveness after the diagnosis was already made.

A Google search using the same terms brought up over 2 million hits. Fox News has a segment with Dr. Michael Barry, who discusses the relationship between the immune system and stress, which he relates to lack of forgiveness.[9] He likens it to trying to drive a car with the parking brake on - dragging around a lot of excess baggage. He is careful to note that there is no research on the subject - but at least he discusses the concept.

So, if we can buy the concept that psychological stress causes inflammation on the physical level, then it's not too far a leap to the place where finding something “impossible to swallow” results eventually in cancer of the throat or the esophagus, where being “suffocated by a relationship” leads to asthma or lung cancer, where being unable to let go of something results in irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, ulcerative colitis or colon cancer.

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, not only do we treat the body with therapies that help heal the physical illness, we also make every effort to help our patients make these stress-linked connections, so that they can heal on all levels.


[1] Reuter S, Gupta SC, Chaturvedi MM, Aggarwal BB. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: how are they linked? Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Dec 1;49(11):1603-16.

Now, finally, it begins to make sense that emotional wounds can also be linked with cancer development. If we believe in the concept of “as above, so below”, if we truly understand that our minds, our emotions and our bodies are not separate entities, but one living organism, then finally we begin to connect the dots between the intolerable situation we experienced as a child, and which we never expressed or discharged, and the colon cancer which developed in the organ the body uses to discharge its wastes.

A review of PubMed using the search terms “emotional wound”, “forgiveness”, and “cancer” brought up no articles relevant to the emotional aspect of the wound, but plenty of articles about the emotional aspects of dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. Using the search terms “forgiveness” and “stress” brought up 60 articles, but only one article related to cancer[8] – and that article talked about self-forgiveness after the diagnosis was already made.

A Google search using the same terms brought up over 2 million hits. Fox News has a segment with Dr. Michael Barry, who discusses the relationship between the immune system and stress, which he relates to lack of forgiveness.[9] He likens it to trying to drive a car with the parking brake on - dragging around a lot of excess baggage. He is careful to note that there is no research on the subject - but at least he discusses the concept.

So, if we can buy the concept that psychological stress causes inflammation on the physical level, then it's not too far a leap to the place where finding something “impossible to swallow” results eventually in cancer of the throat or the esophagus, where being “suffocated by a relationship” leads to asthma or lung cancer, where being unable to let go of something results in irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, ulcerative colitis or colon cancer.

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, not only do we treat the body with therapies that help heal the physical illness, we also make every effort to help our patients make these stress-linked connections, so that they can heal on all levels.

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