Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 45-58

First online:

Associations among Salivary Cortisol, Melatonin, Catecholamines, Sleep Quality and Stress in Women with Breast Cancer and Healthy Controls

  • Linda E. CarlsonAffiliated withDepartment of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, University of CalgaryDepartment of Psychology, University of CalgaryDepartment of Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre Email author 
  • , Tavis S. CampbellAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Calgary
  • , Sheila N. GarlandAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Calgary
  • , Paul GrossmanAffiliated withFreibugh Institute for Mindfulness Research, University of Freibugh

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Dysregulations in several biological systems in breast cancer patients have been reported, including abnormalities in endocrine and sympathetic nervous system indices, as well as psychological disturbances and sleep disorders. The purpose of this exploratory study was to compare women with breast cancer to healthy control women on measures of salivary cortisol, urinary catecholamines, overnight urinary melatonin, and self-reported sleep quality, symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety and mood disturbance, to determine if discernable patterns of dysregulations across systems were apparent. Thirty-three women were tested in each group, with an average age of approximately 52 years, primarily Caucasian and well-educated. Forty percent of the women with breast cancer had stage 2 disease and they were an average of 1.36 years post-diagnosis. Women with breast cancer had significantly higher levels of disturbance on all the psychological indices, but there were no differences between groups on any of the biological measures, with the exception that the control women had higher dopamine values than the participants with breast cancer. None of the psychological scores were correlated with the biological measures. These results are consistent with other studies of early-stage breast cancer and highlight the importance of considering disease characteristics when investigating endocrine and sympathetic nervous system functioning.


breast cancer cortisol melatonin catecholamines stress depression anxiety