Another reason to take to choir singing! A new study suggests that participating in group singing even for an hour boosts levels of immune proteins in cancer patients, reduces stress and improves their mood.
The research by Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music in UK raises the possibility that singing in choir rehearsals could help to put people in the best possible position to receive treatment, maintain remission and support cancer patients.
The study tested 193 members of five different choirs. Results showed that singing for an hour was associated with significant reductions in stress hormones, such as cortisol, and increases in quantities of cytokines — proteins of the immune system — which can boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness.
“These are really exciting findings. We have been building a body of evidence over the past six years to show that singing in a choir can have a range of social, emotional and psychological benefits, and now we can see it has biological effects too,” said Ian Lewis, from the Tenovus Cancer Care.
“We’ve long heard anecdotal evidence that singing in a choir makes people feel good, but this is the first time it’s been demonstrated that the immune system can be affected by singing,” Lewis said.
The study also found that those with the lowest levels of mental wellbeing and highest levels of depression experienced greatest mood improvement, associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body.
There is a link between high levels of inflammation and serious illness.
Choir members gave samples of their saliva before an hour of singing, and then again just after. The samples were analysed to see what changes occurred in a number of hormones, immune proteins, neuropeptides and receptors.
“Many people affected by cancer can experience psychological difficulties such as stress, anxiety and depression,” said Daisy Fancourt, from the Centre for Performance Science, a partnership between the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London.
“Research has demonstrated that these can suppress immune activity, at a time when patients need as much support as they can get from their immune system,” Fancourt said.
“This research is exciting as it suggests that an activity as simple as singing could reduce some of this stress-induced suppression, helping to improve wellbeing and quality of life amongst patients and put them in the best position to receive treatment,” she said.
The study was published in the journal ecancermedicalscience.
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