There are many misconceptions about the causes of cancer.
Half of Britons mistakenly think that stress can cause cancer, even though there is no evidence to support that belief, new findings show.
In a survey of the public’s knowledge of what does and does not cause cancer, exactly 50% of the representative sample of 2,070 adults said that stress increases cancer risk.
And the proportion of people who think that is increasing, according to the findings of the YouGov survey for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). Its equivalent survey last year found that 46% believed that.
There have been reports that stress can lead to cancer. However, the WCRF, an influential charity that investigates the causes of cancer, is adamant that there is no evidence to support this.
But the charity added that “people under stress can sometimes behave in unhealthy ways, such as smoking, overeating or drinking heavily, which do increase their risk of many cancers. If you’re under stress, it’s important to try to find other ways of coping, such as doing physical activity.”
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is clear in its public information that while “stressful events can alter the levels of hormones in the body and affect the immune system … there is no evidence that these changes could lead to cancer.
“It has been suggested that stress can cause cancer, particularly breast cancer. But the evidence for this has been poor. While a few studies have found a link, they have often only looked at a small number of participants or asked women to recall if they were stressed before they developed the disease, which isn’t a reliable way of measuring stress,” it says.
Fiona Osgun, a CRUK spokeswoman, added: “Research shows there’s no direct link between stress and cancer, but being stressed can make us more likely to reach for a glass of wine or the biscuit barrel. On the upside, healthy ways of dealing with stress like going for a brisk walk can help cut cancer risk.”
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