Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 531–544 | Cite as

DNA Repair Capacity in Healthy Medical Students During and After Exam Stress

  • Lorenzo Cohen
  • Gailen D. MarshallJr.
  • Lie Cheng
  • Sandeep K. Agarwal
  • Qingyi Wei


There has been extensive research into the effects of stress on immune function but little on the effects of stress on DNA repair capacity (DRC), a process central to maintaining a normal cell cycle. Defective DRC is one of the factors responsible for carcinogenesis. In the present study we assessed DRC in healthy medical students during times of high and low stress. Sixteen medical students were evaluated during the third day of a 5-day exam period and then again 3 weeks later, after vacation. At both time points, participants underwent a brief physical examination, had venous blood drawn, and completed questionnaires to identify subjective stress levels. The DRC was assessed by the host-cell reaction assay, which measures nucleotide excision repair capacity. Participants reported significantly higher levels of subjective stress during the exam period than after vacation. DRC was also significantly higher during the exam period than after vacation, suggesting a positive association between subject stress levels and DRC. The results are discussed in relation to previous findings and implications for cancer research.

stress DNA repair depression carcinogenesis cancer 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorenzo Cohen
    • 1
  • Gailen D. MarshallJr.
    • 2
  • Lie Cheng
    • 3
  • Sandeep K. Agarwal
    • 4
  • Qingyi Wei
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Behavioral ScienceThe University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer CenterUSA
  2. 2.Division of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, Department of Internal MedicineThe University of Texas Houston Medical SchoolHouston
  3. 3.Department of EpidemiologyThe University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer CenterUSA
  4. 4.Division of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, Department of Internal MedicineThe University of Texas—Houston Medical SchoolUSA

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