Work-related stress is unlikely to be an important risk factor for cancer, according to a study published in the BMJ.
The study, by a consortium led by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University College, London, looked at whether work-related stress, measured and defined as job strain, is associated with the overall risk of cancer and the risk of colorectal, lung, breast, or prostate cancers.
The researchers studied data from 12 European cohort studies in six countries including 116,056 men and women aged 17-70 who were free from cancer at study baseline and were followed up for an average of 12 years. Work stress was measured and defined as job strain, which was self reported. Any incidents of cancer were analysed and were adjusted for age, sex, socioeconomic position, body mass index (BMI), smoking, and alcohol intake.
High job strain was not associated with overall risk of cancer, in particular for colorectal, lung, breast or prostate cancers.
They say: “We found no evidence for an association between job strain and the overall risk of cancer or the risk of colorectal, lung, breast, or prostate cancers.” They add that previous studies showing a relationship between work stress and cancer could have been influenced by chance, the fact that studies were small scale or due to other factors associated with work, including shift work or other causes of stress which combine with the work stress.