For many years now, spiritualists and alternative medicine devotees have suggested that meditation can help a person beat cancer. In a world first, some research may have demonstrated that meditation can alter cells within the human body and play a role in battling cancer.
The canadian-based research, “Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors“, has been published in the journal Cancer. It indicates that meditation and yoga can alter cellular activity of cancer survivors.
Protein caps at the end of chromosome called telomeres stayed at the same length in cancer survivors who meditated or took part in support groups over a 3 month period. This is contrasted with people who did not participate in support groups or meditation, and saw a shortening of their telomeres. Telomeres determine how quickly a cell ages.
The question here is what role telomeres play in regulating disease. There is some evidence that longer telomeres can help protect people from diseases like breast cancer.
There was already evidence that meditation, mindfulness and support groups could make you feel better, but this is the first mind-body link discovered for these practices.
88 breast cancer survivors took part in the research. The average age of the participants involved was 55. One third of the group was asked to attend a weekly 90 minute support session and to practice meditation or yoga for 45 minutes each day.
Another third just used the support group to talk about their emotions. The third group attended a single seminar about stress management and was not asked to meditate.
The people who used the support group and meditated had lower stress levels and maintained their telomere length. The control group saw a shortening.
This is very exciting research for people who have advocated for meditation and mindfulness. While we don’t know exactly what role telomeres play in human health just yet, we do know that maintaining telomere length is positive for human health.