Long Duration of Exposure to Work-Related Stress May Affect Cancer Development

Work-related stress affected development in five of the cancers examined.
Work-related stress affected development in five of the cancers examined.

Prolonged exposure to perceived stress at work may be associated with greater odds of developing cancer.1 The study found that prolonged exposure to work-related stress was associated with an increased likelihood of lung, colon, rectal, and stomach cancer as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The study, which was published in Preventive Medicine, was conducted by researchers at the Université de Montréal and it is the first to assess the link between cancer and work-related stress perceived by men throughout their working life. 

On average, the study participants had held 4 jobs, with some holding up to a dozen or more during their working lifetime. The study revealed significant links to 5 of the 11 cancers considered. These links were observed in men who had been exposed to 15 to 30 years of work-related stress, and more than 30 years in some cases. A link between work-related stress and cancer was not found in men who had held stressful jobs for less than 15 years.

This study is unique because it measured stress levels at different points in an individual's working life. The researchers conducted a population-based case-control study in Montreal, Canada, that included 3103 incident cancer cases (11 types). The investigators also interviewed 512 population controls. They found that employment in at least one stressful job was associated with increased odds of cancers of the lung (odds ratio [OR] = 1.33), colon (OR = 1.51), bladder (OR = 1.37), rectal (OR = 1.52), and stomach (OR = 1.53). A duration-response trend was found for cancers of the lung, colon, rectum, stomach, and for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Reference

1. Blanc-Lapierre A, Rousseau MC, Weiss D, et al. Lifetime report of perceived stress at work and cancer among men: a case-control study in Montreal, Canada. Prev Med. 2016 Dec 5;96:28-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.12.004

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