What can stress do – Part 4: Work-related stress related to certain cancers

The relationship between stress and disease is complex and even mysterious. The impact of stress on health, including both mental and physical health, varies from person-to-person. On one hand, genetic predisposition, gender, coping mechanism, personality and social support play a key role in determining the way stress manifests and leads the development of an illness. On the other hand, external stressors, such as pressure at work, environment, noise, injury, trauma, etc., can also spike stress levels to an unexpected level.

Chronic stress over a long stretch of time has been known to contribute to the spread of some types of cancer or make one vulnerable to the onset of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most prevalent types of cancers afflicting men are prostate cancer followed by lung cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer and melanoma in the United States.

The current article, as the last article of the series “What can stress do,” talks about the way work-related stress has been linked to the development of certain types of cancer in men.

Long period of exposure to workplace stress linked to adverse consequences related to cancer

A study by the researchers at Institut national de la recherché scientifique (INRS) and Université de Montréal found that sustained exposure to work-related stress has been linked to increased vulnerability to developing lung, colon, rectal and stomach cancer, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma in men. The study, published in the journal of Preventive Medicine, assessed how work-related stress perceived by men impacted them throughout their work career.

The study entailed 512 participants with considerable employment history. On average, the participants had held at least four jobs between 15 and 30 years and some over 30 years, such as firefighter, industrial engineer, aerospace engineer, mechanic foreman, and vehicle and railway equipment repair worker positions. These roles are considered among the most stressful occupations.

One can understand the close relationship between chronic diseases and stress by the fact that no link between perceived workplace psychological stress and cancer was found in people who held stressful jobs for less than 15 years compared to those who held the for over 15 years. The study found out strong positive correlation between stress and cancer in five of the eleven cancers that were premeditated. The findings of the study were:

  • Men with exposure to 15 to 30 years or over 30 years of work-related stress were observed to be having a strong correlation with the development of cancer.
  • The same correlation was not found in participants who experienced work-related stress for less than 15 years.
  • Perceived stress is not limited to high workload and time constraints as participants also cited anxiety, insecurity, financial difficulties, challenging or dangerous conditions, supervisory issues, stressful commutes and interpersonal conflict as other sources of stress.

“One of the biggest flaws in previous cancer studies is that none of them assessed work-related stress over a full working lifetime, making it impossible to determine how the duration of exposure to work-related stress affects cancer development. Our study shows the importance of measuring stress at different points in an individual’s working life,” said the authors in a statement.

However, the results of this study are yet to be vindicated as they are based on an assessment of work-related stress that requires further research with more reliable stress-measuring methods. Nevertheless, the findings of the study raise questions if chronic psychological stress should be considered a public health concern or not.

Learn ways to deal with stress

Psychological stress can impact one’s mental, physical or emotional state, regardless of the fact whether it was triggered by work or not. Some studies suggest that individuals with cancer experience a sense of hopelessness and helplessness when diagnosed with cancer. In fact, they tend to display depressive symptoms while battling the stressful phase of cancer. However, how stress leads to cancer or its impact on the diagnosis of cancer is yet to be unraveled.

If you or your loved one is suffering from the symptoms of mental illnesses, it is important to seek professional help. The Colorado Mental Health Help assists in accessing the best Mental Health Treatment Centers in Colorado. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 899-5063 or chat online with our medical advisers to know more about the Residential Mental Health Treatment Centers in Colorado near you.

Read the other articles of the series “Impact of stress:”

Impact of stress – Part 1: Increases risk of heart disease and stroke

Impact of stress – Part 2: Leads to pathological anxiety

Impact of stress – Part 3: Work-related stress impacts regular cortisol activity