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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 Mar 2023 - 24 Mar 2023

Psychology, Social Aspects, Translational

Human Studies

Inflammation/Inflammatory, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Mar 22



Conflicts hurt: social stress predicts elevated pain and sadness after mild inflammatory increases.


Madison AA, Renna M, Andridge R, Peng J, Shrout MR, Sheridan J, Lustberg M, Ramaswamy B, Wesolowski R, Williams NO, Noonan AM, Reinbolt RE, Stover DG, Cherian MA, Malarkey WB, Kiecolt-Glaser JK


Individuals respond differently to inflammation. Pain, sadness, and fatigue are common correlates of inflammation among breast cancer survivors. Stress may predict response intensity. This study tested whether breast cancer survivors with greater exposure to acute or chronic social or nonsocial stress had larger increases in pain, sadness, and fatigue during an acute inflammatory response. In total, 156 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors (ages 36-78 years, stage I-IIIA, 1-9 years posttreatment) were randomized to either a typhoid vaccine/saline placebo or the placebo/vaccine sequence, which they received at 2 separate visits at least 1 month apart. Survivors had their blood drawn every 90 minutes for the next 8 hours postinjection to assess levels of interleukin-6 and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra). Shortly after each blood draw, they rated their current levels of pain, sadness, and fatigue. Women also completed the Test of Negative Social Exchange to assess chronic social stress and the Trier Inventory of Chronic Stressors screen to index chronic general stress. At each visit, a trained experimenter administered the Daily Inventory of Stressful Events to assess social and nonsocial stress exposure within the past 24 hours. After statistical adjustment for relevant demographic and behavioral covariates, the most consistent results were that survivors who reported more chronic social stress reported more pain and sadness in response to IL-1Ra increases. Frequent and ongoing social stress may sensitize the nervous system to the effects of inflammation, with potential implications for chronic pain and depression risk among breast cancer survivors.