Stress at work ‘can increase breast cancer risk by a third’

Work stress can increase risk of breast cancer by a third

WOMEN IN DEMANDING jobs are 30% more likely to develop breast cancer, a study has revealed.

Swedish research has shown that women who feel stressed at work are more likely to develop the disease.

The study, which was carried out on 36,000 women between the ages of 30 and 50 who were in work when the study started in 1990, found that, by 2004, 767 of them had been diagnosed with breast cancer; researchers found that breast cancer risk increased by 30% for those with stressful jobs, after other factors including alcohol consumption, number of children, weight and age, were taken in to consideration.

The reason why stress might increase the risk is unclear, although studies show it may raise levels of the hormone oestrogen, which can heighten the risk of cancer. Another theory is that stress changes women’s behaviour, making them adopt unhealthy habits such as smoking and not exercising.

Dr Emma Pennery, of the charity Breast Cancer Care, agreed that stress could potentially weaken the immune system, and spark a string of cancer-boosting behaviour: ‘Previous studies have failed to provide any convincing link between breast cancer and stress.

‘One of the difficulties is that it is hard to measure stress, it’s an objective thing. But if people are stressed, that can lead to unhealthy behaviour.

‘If women feel stressed, they may not eat as well, they may drink more and they may do less exercise. All these can increase the risks of breast cancer.’ (1 October 2007)

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