Objective To investigate 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.
Design Meta-analysis of pooled prospective individual participant data from 12 European cohort studies including 116 056 men and women aged 17-70 who were free from cancer at study baseline and were followed-up for a median of 12 years. Work stress was measured and defined as job strain, which was self reported at baseline. Incident cancers (all n=5765, colorectal cancer n=522, lung cancer n=374, breast cancer n=1010, prostate cancer n=865) were ascertained from cancer, hospital admission, and death registers. Data were analysed in each study with Cox regression and the study specific estimates pooled in meta-analyses. Models were adjusted for age, sex, socioeconomic position, body mass index (BMI), smoking, and alcohol intake
Results A harmonised measure of work stress, high job strain, was not associated with overall risk of cancer (hazard ratio 0.97, 95% confidence interval 0.90 to 1.04) in the multivariable adjusted analyses. Similarly, no association was observed between job strain and the risk of colorectal (1.16, 0.90 to 1.48), lung (1.17, 0.88 to 1.54), breast (0.97, 0.82 to 1.14), or prostate (0.86, 0.68 to 1.09) cancers. There was no clear evidence for an association between the categories of job strain and the risk of cancer.
Conclusions These findings suggest that work related stress, measured and defined as job strain, at baseline is unlikely to be an important risk factor for colorectal, lung, breast, or prostate cancers.