New Canadian research suggests that for men, prolonged exposure to work-related stress is linked to an increased likelihood of particular types of cancer.
Researchers discovered perceptions of work-related stress over the course of a man’s career was associated with increased risk of lung, colon, rectal, and stomach cancer and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The study is the first to assess the link between cancer and work-related stress perceived by men throughout their working life.
The research results appear in Preventive Medicine.
On average, the study participants had held four jobs, with some holding up to a dozen or more during their working lifetime. Significant links to five of the 11 cancers considered in the study were revealed.
These links were observed in men who had been exposed to 15 to 30 years of work-related stress, and in some cases, more than 30 years.
A link between work-related stress and cancer was not found in participants who had held stressful jobs for less than 15 years.
The most stressful jobs included firefighter, industrial engineer, aerospace engineer, mechanic foreman, and vehicle and railway-equipment repair worker.
For the same individual, stress varied depending on the job held. In the study, researchers were able to document changes in perceived work-related stress.
The study also shows that perceived stress is not limited to high work load and time constraints.
Customer service, sales commissions, responsibilities, the participant’s anxious temperament, job insecurity, financial problems, challenging or dangerous work conditions, employee supervision, interpersonal conflict, and a difficult commute were all sources of stress listed by the participants.
“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,” the study authors write.
The results raise the question of whether chronic psychological stress should be viewed as a public health issue.
Investigators say additional study is needed as the current results are as yet unsubstantiated because they are based on a summary assessment of work-related stress for a given job.
Researchers say epidemiological studies based on reliable stress measurements, repeated over time and that take all sources of stress into account, are now planned.