DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Women with a family history of breast cancer are at greater risk for breast cancer and can report elevated levels of chronic psychological distress as a result of how they perceive that risk. Chronic distress has been associated with increased reactivity to acute stressors in healthy populations and women with a family history of breast cancer. Evidence suggests acute stress reactivity interferes with the cognitive processing of threat- related information, including cancer words. One study has used a modified version of the Stroop color naming task to show that cancer words elicit cognitive processing interference among women with a family history of breast cancer. However, indicators of chronic distress were not associated with the biased cognitive processing in this sample, perhaps because they were not reporting elevated levels of chronic distress. The relationship between chronic stress, acute stress reactivity, and biased cognitive processing among women at risk for breast cancer is not clear. The present study will directly address this gap by administering the cancer Stroop task to a sample of family history positive and family history negative women who are reporting elevated levels of chronic distress. The proposed study will also measure and characterize the acute stress response that may be associated with taking the cancer Stroop task by including acute stress ratings and cortisol sampling before and after the task. Cortisol is one of the major biological indicators of stress in humans. Finally, the present study will test the effects of an existing 10-week CBSM intervention on distress and cancer Stroop task performance among the family history positive women. It is important to understand how chronic distress, acute stress reactivity and biased cognitive processing work among women at risk for breast cancer because women at risk for breast cancer are need to process information about how to manage their risk, for example whether to undergo prophylactic chemotherapies and surgeries.
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