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Stress at Work Doesn't Increase Cancer Risk

Update Date: Feb 08, 2013 07:49 AM EST

Work-related stress, when a person has low control on the job, has been linked to mental health problems like dementia and heart disease risk; however, a new study says that it won't increase cancer risk.

Stress has previously been associated with chronic inflammation. These kinds of changes in the body have been known to aid development of cancer. Also, people who are stressed might take up smoking or drinking, habits that are associated with cancer.

The present study shows that stress related to work doesn't raise risk of cancers. For the study, researchers obtained data from 12 studies conducted on the subject from Finland, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and the U.K. Some 116,000 people aged between 17 and 70 years had participated in these studies.

Whether or not participants were stressed at work was assessed using job strain. Researchers categorized job strain as high strain job (high demands and low control), active job (high demands and high control), passive job (low demands and low control) and low strain job (low demands and high control), according to a news release.

Cancer diagnosis data was obtained from health registries in the countries. Researchers found that in more than 5,000 cancer diagnoses during the 12-year study period, job-related stress did not play a significant role. Researchers say that previous studies that may have found links between cancers and job strains might not have accounted for other factors like shift-work, which has been linked to breast cancer and heart disease risk.

"These findings add to the evidence that stress doesn't directly affect cancer risk. Although stress can contribute to some other health problems, there has been no real evidence that stress itself could cause cancers," said Dr. Helga Groll, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, in a statement from Cancer Research UK.

The study is published in the journal bmj. Although stress by itself won't increase cancer risk, an unhealthy lifestyle may up the chances.

"But stress can bring out unhealthy behaviours in people, such as smoking, overeating or heavy drinking, and there's clear evidence that doing these things can increase the risk of cancer. Living a healthy life is the best way to reduce the risk of cancer," Groll added. 

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