Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Breast cancer, psychological distress and life events among young women

Ronit Peled1*, Devora Carmil2, Orly Siboni-Samocha3 and Ilana Shoham-Vardi3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Systems Management, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel

2 Center for the Study of Psychological Stress, Haifa University, Haifa, Israel

3 Department of Epidemiology and Health Services Evaluation, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel

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BMC Cancer 2008, 8:245  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-245

Published: 22 August 2008


Since 1983, studies have suggested an interaction between the severe life events, psychological distress and the etiology of Cancer. However, these associations are still under dispute.

The aim of the present study was to examine the relationship between life events, psychological distress and Breast Cancer (BC) among young women.


A case control study. The study population included 622 women, under the age of 45 years. 255 were diagnosed for BC, and 367 were healthy women. A validated Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) and Life Event Questionnaire were used.


The cases presented significantly higher scores of depression compared to the controls and significant lower scores of happiness and optimism. A significant difference was found when comparing the groups according to the cumulative number of life events (two or more events). A multivariate analysis suggest that exposure to more than one life event is positively associated with BC [Odds Ratio(OR) :1.62 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.09–2.40], and that a general feeling of happiness and optimism has a "protective effect" on the etiology of BC. (OR-0.75, 95% CI:0.64–0.86).


Young women who were exposed to a number of life events, should be considered as a risk group for BC and treated accordingly.