The two main components of the stress system are the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and sympathetic-adrenal-medullary (SAM) axes. While cortisol has been commonly used as a biomarker of HPA functioning, much less attention has been paid to the role of the SAM in this context. Studies have shown that long-term breast cancer survivors display abnormal reactive cortisol patterns, suggesting a dysregulation of their HPA axis. To fully understand the integrity of the stress response in this population, this paper explored the diurnal and acute alpha-amylase profiles of 22 breast cancer survivors and 26 women with no history of cancer. Results revealed that breast cancer survivors displayed identical but elevated patterns of alpha-amylase concentrations in both diurnal and acute profiles relative to that of healthy women, F (1, 39) = 17.95, p
< 0.001 and F (1, 37) = 7.29, p
= 0.010, respectively. The average area under the curve for the diurnal and reactive profiles was 631.54 ± 66.94 SEM and 1238.78 ± 111.84 SEM, respectively. This is in sharp contrast to their cortisol results, which showed normal diurnal and blunted acute patterns. The complexity of the stress system necessitates further investigation to understand the synergistic relationship of the HPA and SAM axes.
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