I can’t qualify posts like this enough; they are zeroth order thoughts that are more like armchair musings than they are even close to anything scientific.
Fairly often I come across a science news article about some study that correlates behavioral/mental health with some kind of somatic manifestation. There’s a term that many bandy around, “psychosomatic,” often used superciliously to indicate that one’s pains are somehow made up in one’s mind. However, pain is a very personal, neurological experience that makes objectivity difficult to assess. A recent headline I saw posits a link between loneliness in women and a higher incidence of breast cancer. To assume without qualification, for a moment, that there is a mechanism behind this observation, I was thinking about what that might be. The intuitive reaction is often to assume that it may be through inaction that the brain/body might not fight aggressive cancer cell growth if the loneliness is associated with less than optimal brain function (as is easy to imagine). However, what happens when we think about this in the opposite way? What if the mechanism of action is similar to programmed organism death? What if, in detecting a sub-optimal neurological state, the brain actively contributes to a condition that makes it susceptible to a parasitic toxin such as cancer cells?
This is all firmly in the domain of a gedanken experiment at the moment, but I bet there is some research that investigates several of these issues and potentially how they might work together to understand this. To extend these vagaries further, understanding may lead to effective treatment that could be as simple as “being social” or “making oneself happy.” Mechanism unknown, perhaps, these kinds of simple things may have far greater ramifications for our psychosomatic health (in the non-pejorative way).
Update: the original article will be published in a journal called Cancer Prevention Research.