Scientific evidence confirms: meditation has positive effects on the cells of cancer survivors

A new scientific study demonstrated for the very first time that practicing meditation and being part of a group with the main purpose to offer support has a physical effect on the cells.

meditation for cancer survivors

The study and its results

The study has been made by researchers from the University of Calgary – Department of Oncology and Alberta Health Services’ Tom Baker Cancer Centre. The subjects of the study were breast cancer survivors. To be eligible for the study, they had to be at least in their third month of medical treatment. Some of them have already finished the treatment at the moment of the study. In total, 88 patients with the average age of 55 (all over the age of 18), with a diagnosis of breast cancer, stages I to III, have participated in the study.

The evidence reveals that telomeres – a region of repetitive DNA at the end of chromosomes that has the role of protecting the chromosome from deterioration – react differently in the case of breast cancer survivors who have the habit of meditating or regularly participating in meetings of support groups. While telomeres shorten in the patients who are not involved in such kind of activities, these regions remain of the same length if they practice yoga, meditation or are part of a support group.

Dr. Linda Carlson, Southern Alberta Cancer Institute member and professor in the Faculty of Arts and the Cumming School of Medicine, was the director of the study and the principal investigator. She explains that the researchers participating in the study were surprised because they couldn’t observe any difference in the length of telomere for the entire period of the study, which was of three months. Dr. Linda, Ph.D., also declared that it was already known that mindfulness meditation has a positive effect and helps you to feel better mentally. What is new and fascinating is the fact that this can also influence important aspects of your biology. She also mentions that other studies are necessary to quantify these benefits upon health, but the discovery made is fascinating and provides encouraging news.

How did the study work?

The study was made on three groups. The first of them was the Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery group. Here, the participants had to attend eight weeks of 90-minute group sessions, where they received instructions on how to practice yoga and meditation. Then, they had to put it into practice at home, at least 45 minutes per day.

The second group was named Supportive Expressive Therapy. In this case, the patients had to meet weekly for 90 minutes of group therapy. They were encouraged to express their feelings and emotions, both positive and negative. The women were allowed to talk freely about their concerns, achievements and hopes. The researchers tried to create a bonding between the participants so that they could provide mutual support for each other.

The third group was the control group. The participants only attended one seminar concerning stress management, which lasted six hours.

The results of the study are based on the analyses made on blood samples from the participants. The samples were collected before and after their participation in meditation, group therapy and seminar, and the length of the telomere was analyzed through comparison.

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