Psychological support of skin cancer patients

Br J Dermatol. 2012 Aug;167 Suppl 2:105-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2012.11094.x.


The diagnosis of skin cancer imposes a great stress on our patients. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation-induced skin cancers are on the rise and frequently occur in younger patients and unexposed sites despite improved protective behaviour. Environmental factors and lifestyle habits have changed greatly in the last century and in addition to UV radiation exposure, psychosocial stressors and physical inactivity may play a role in the rising tumour incidence. With environmental stressors such as UV radiation they share the capacity to change the stress reaction. So far research into the interaction between stress, cancer and psychosocial intervention has generated some interesting results with respect to improvement of quality of life and the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the sympathetic axis and natural killer cells. These results hint at a suppressive effect of chronic stress on cellular immunity and the importance of a sufficient length and intensity of any psychosocial intervention for it to be effective. Nevertheless, the evidence remains inconclusive and does not take into account the findings of current psychoneuroimmunological research. This research has demonstrated the importance of a third stress axis along which neurotrophins and neuropeptides are effective. Along this axis, regulatory mechanisms may contribute to suppress tumoricidal immune responses. This may be instrumental in the establishment of an immune response that promotes tumour progression and holds important implications for integrated therapeutic strategies. However, research into the psychoneuroimmunological benefits of psychosocial intervention is largely missing, and future interdisciplinary research is warranted for understanding and further promoting improved quality of life and psychological as well as physical well-being after psychosocial intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Neurosecretory Systems / immunology
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology
  • Skin Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control