Objective: The aims of this study were to examine the effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training intervention among cancer patients on levels of salivary cortisol, and further to explore if changes in psychological variables mediate intervention effects on cortisol.
Methods: Patients with a previous cancer diagnosis (n = 71) were recruited and randomized into an intervention group or a waiting-list control group. The intervention consisted of an 8-week MBSR training course.
Results: There were no overall effects of the intervention on cortisol levels at 3-month or 6-month follow-up. However, a significant effect of moderation was found showing a different intervention effect on awakening cortisol among participants with varying baseline level of cortisol. Among those with initial low levels of cortisol, there was an increase from baseline to 3-month follow-up, and among those with initial high levels there was a decreased level of cortisol at 3-month follow-up. There was no association between changes in psychological outcomes and cortisol levels.
Conclusions: The results suggest an adjustment of cortisol levels as a result of MBSR. The study gives preliminary support indicating that MBSR can influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis functioning. The importance of these findings for future research in the field of mindfulness and stress reduction among cancer patients are discussed.
2013. Vol. 54, no 2, 158-164 p.