Life events, cortisol and levels of prostate specific antigen: A story of synergism

Yori Gidron, Bibiana Fabre, Halina Grosman, Carlos Nolazco, Viviana Mesch, Osvaldo Mazza, Gabriela Berg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Previous studies have tested the relationship between stressful life events (LE) and cancer onset, but inconsistent results have been found. One possibility is that the LE-cancer relation may depend on other biological factors pertinent to stress and cancer. Methods: This study examined the relationship between LE and prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels, a tumor marker, and whether cortisol mediates or moderates a LE-PSA relationship. During a voluntary screening for prostate cancer risk, 139 men (mean age = 57.3 years) were assessed with the Holmes and Rahe questionnaire about their LE during the past 1-5 years, and their PSA and serum cortisol levels were measured. Results: LE and cortisol alone were unrelated to PSA. However, statistically controlling for age, body mass index and the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol, we found evidence for a synergistic interaction between LE and cortisol. Among men with low cortisol, number of LE were inversely and significantly correlated with PSA (r= -0.265, p< 0.05), while in men with high cortisol, number of LE were positively and significantly correlated with PSA (r= 0.344, p< 0.01). These results more consistently stemmed from the effects of uncontrollable LE. Similar results were found, using a clinically significant PSA cut-off. Conclusions: These results suggest considering the joint effects of psychosocial and biological factors in relation to possible cancer risk, where the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis may moderate stress-cancer risk associations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)874-880
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from University of Buenos Aires (2008–2010 and 2010–2012) and Roemmers Foundation (2008–2010); the University of Buenos Aires and Roemmers Foundation had no further role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.


  • Cortisol
  • Life events
  • Prostate cancer
  • Prostate specific antigen
  • Synergism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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