Long-term Work-related Stress Increases Risk Of Cancer

Prolonged exposure to work-related stress for men has been associated with an increased risk of lung, colon, rectal, and stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

  Researchers at INRS and Université de Montréal undertook the first study to evaluate the relationship between cancer and work-related stress experienced by males throughout their working lives. The findings of the study were released in Preventive Medicine.

The study participants had, on average, worked four jobs throughout their working lives, with some holding as many as a dozen or more. Five of the eleven malignancies that were considered in the study had noteworthy connections found. These associations were found in men who had endured 15 to 30 years and in some cases more than 30 years of job-related stress. Participants who had held difficult occupations for less than 15 years did not show a correlation between job-related stress and cancer.

Changes in the perception of work-related stress

A few professions with the highest levels of stress were Firefighter, industrial engineer, aerospace engineer, mechanic foreman, and railway and transportation equipment maintenance. Depending on the work undertaken, stress differed for the same person. Changes in the perception of work-related stress were recorded by researchers.

The study demonstrates as well that time restrictions and a heavy workload are not the only causes of subjective stress. The sources of stress mentioned by the participants were staff supervision, customer service, sales commissions, duties, the participant’s worried temperament, job uncertainty, financial issues, hazardous or difficult working conditions, and a problematic commute.

Is chronic psychological stress a public health issue?

“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,” explain the authors of the study.

The findings make it debatable whether persistent psychological stress qualifies as a public health concern. The fact that these findings are based on a summary assessment of work-related stress for a particular employment renders them unreliable. Epidemiological studies that are based on trustworthy stress assessments, repeated over time, and that take into consideration all sources of stress are currently required.

Story Source:  

Materials provided by Institut national de la recherche scientifique – INRS. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Audrey Blanc-Lapierre, Marie-Claude Rousseau, Deborah Weiss, Mariam El-Zein, Jack Siemiatycki, Marie-Élise Parent. Lifetime report of perceived stress at work and cancer among men: A case-control study in Montreal, Canada. Preventive Medicine, 2017; 96: 28 DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.12.004

Page citation:

Institut national de la recherche scientifique – INRS. “Prolonged exposure to work-related stress thought to be related to certain cancers: First study on the link between cancer and work-related stress perceived by men throughout their working lifetime.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170117105044.htm

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