Too much stress can cause cancer

More cancer from work stress?

Work can make you sick - also when it comes to cancer: Researchers have discovered a connection between permanently increased work stress and two types of cancer. According to this, stress exposure can significantly increase the risk of colon cancer and esophageal cancer. Lung cancer is also apparently more common in stressed people - even if smoking is considered as a risk factor and excluded.

Although cancer is one of the most common diseases in the modern world, its triggers are still only partially understood. It is known that environmental influences, diet and lifestyle influence the risk of cancer. Smoking and being overweight can also promote tumor diseases. At the same time, however, biological factors such as genetic predisposition and even body size also seem to play a role.

Work stress as a risk factor?

But what about stress as a risk factor for cancer? Previous studies had already found evidence of a cancer-promoting effect of chronic stress. However, it remained unclear whether this was due to the stress itself or to the associated behaviors such as increased smoking, reduced exercise and an unhealthy diet.

To clarify this question, Tingting Yang from the People's Hospital in Henan and his team have now evaluated the health data of more than 280,000 participants in long-term studies in North America and Europe. In doing so, they specifically examined whether there were any connections between the respective work stress of the test subjects and different types of cancer.

More colon cancer and esophageal cancer

Indeed, the scientists found a significant correlation in two types of cancer - colon cancer and esophageal cancer. In addition, there was also a noticeable increase in lung cancer in very stressed people. These relationships remain intact even if the researchers took other risk factors such as smoking, obesity or lifestyle into account.

Interesting, however: The type of cancer to which work stress makes you more susceptible also seems to depend on where you live: "In North America, the effect of work stress on colon cancer was statistically significant, but not in Europe," the researchers report. In the case of esophageal cancer, on the other hand, the risk in Europe increased significantly with the stress level, but not in North America.

Mechanism still unclear

It is still unclear why there are these differences. "There are various biological mechanisms through which stress can lead to cancer," said Yang and his colleagues. One still has to find out which ones are effective in this case. Their study also found that stress does not appear to have any detectable effects on some other cancers. These included prostate cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. (International Journal of Cancer, 2018; doi: 10.1002 / ijc.31955)

Source: Wiley

December 13, 2018

- Nadja Podbregar