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Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Relation to Quality of Life, Mood, Symptoms of Stress, and Immune Parameters in Breast and Prostate Cancer Outpatients

Carlson, Linda E. PHD; Speca, Michael PSYD; Patel, Kamala D. PHD; Goodey, Eileen MSW

doi: 10.1097/01.PSY.0000074003.35911.41

Objectives: This study investigated the relationships between a mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation program for early stage breast and prostate cancer patients and quality of life, mood states, stress symptoms, lymphocyte counts, and cytokine production.

Methods: Forty-nine patients with breast cancer and 10 with prostate cancer participated in an 8-week MBSR program that incorporated relaxation, meditation, gentle yoga, and daily home practice. Demographic and health behavior variables, quality of life (EORTC QLQ C-30), mood (POMS), stress (SOSI), and counts of NK, NKT, B, T total, T helper, and T cytotoxic cells, as well as NK and T cell production of TNF, IFN-γ, IL-4, and IL-10 were assessed pre- and postintervention.

Results: Fifty-nine and 42 patients were assessed pre- and postintervention, respectively. Significant improvements were seen in overall quality of life, symptoms of stress, and sleep quality. Although there were no significant changes in the overall number of lymphocytes or cell subsets, T cell production of IL-4 increased and IFN-γ decreased, whereas NK cell production of IL-10 decreased. These results are consistent with a shift in immune profile from one associated with depressive symptoms to a more normal profile.

Conclusions: MBSR participation was associated with enhanced quality of life and decreased stress symptoms in breast and prostate cancer patients. This study is also the first to show changes in cancer-related cytokine production associated with program participation.

From the Department Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre (L.E.C., M.S., E.G.), Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and the Departments of Oncology (L.E.C., M.S.) and Physiology and Biophysics (K.D.P.), Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Address reprint requests to: Linda E. Carlson, PhD, Department of Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, 1331 29th Street NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 4N2. Email:

Received for publication January 23, 2002; revision received August 5, 2002.

This study was supported by the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative. Dr. Linda Carlson was a Terry Fox Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the National Cancer Institute of Canada during the time the study was conducted. She is currently a Canadian Institutes of Health Research New Investigator. Heartfelt thanks go to all the women and men who participated in the study and whose enthusiasm continues to inspire us. Special thanks go to our research nurse Ms. Lori Tillotson for her tireless efforts in assuring the smooth running of the study and to Ms. Evelyn Lailey for her impeccable work in the lab.

Copyright © 2003 by American Psychosomatic Society
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