Students of the mind/body connection have pondered the relationship between stress and the risk of cancer. A recent article in the science section of the NYTimes http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/29/health/29holocaust.html?_r=1&ref=science seems to confirm the association.
It seems that the younger the Holocaust victim was, the higher the incidence of cancer of the colon or breast in later life.
We do not have to speculate on the biologic mechanisms involved. Prolonged, unremitting emotional and physical stress diminishes the body's immune system.
What needs to be elucidate is why there is such a delay in the manifestation of malignancies.
Fortunately, most of us will never have to suffer such horrific experiences. Yet our everyday lives offer us our mini-catastrophes. In fact our tendency to catastrophize our life's experience sets us up for immune system degradation and an increased likelihood of infectious diseases as well as malignancies.
The solution is not easy but the consequences are grave–we need to let go of those stressors which can be re-interpreted. Reframing is a psychological technique. It involves an act of will which might very well contrary to our innate feelings–to minimize adversity, to regard disappointments and failures as part of life's journey. To make a conscious decision to learn from them and see the future with an optimistic perspective.
Difficult to be sure, but our very lives may depend upon doing so.