Men approaching middle age and who are hampered with chronic generalized anxiety disorder are more than two times as likely to succumb to cancer than men who don’t have that problem, according to new research.
The same research study, however, did not find an increased risk of cancer death among women who suffer from severe anxiety.
The study’s findings were presented recently at the European College of Neuropsychophmarcology’s Congress in Vienna, Austria. The study was the largest ever to examine the tie between cancer and anxiety, having tracked 15,938 British subjects over 40 years of age for 15 years.
Researchers took account of a number of factors that boost chances of getting cancer like age, alcohol consumption, chronic diseases and smoking. But even so, men who were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder were 2.15 times more likely to die of cancer than men who did not have that diagnosis, Medical Xpress reported.
Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition whereby sufferers exhibit excessive and uncontrollable worry over many aspects of life, and it actually affected women involved in the study more often than men. Among women studied, 2.4 percent suffered from the disorder compared to 1.8 percent of men. But the results showed more male sufferers developed cancer.
Authors were not certain how cancer and anxiety disorders are linked and the study did not reveal the answer. Also, they said they were not certain how anxiety leads to the formation of cancer cells, but it’s possible that men who anxiety disorder could engage in certain behaviors that make getting cancer more common.
However, researchers also opined that the two separate diseases could also come from common origins, like higher rates of inflammation, perhaps.
But whatever their relationship – which will likely now become the subject of further examination – the study’s lead author said the findings indicate that men who suffer high anxiety should be closely monitored by health care professionals.
“Society may need to consider anxiety as a warning signal for poor health,” said Olivia Remes of Cambridge University’s Institute of Public Health. “With this study, we show that anxiety is more than just a personality trait,” but instead a condition that has real and serious health risks.
David Nutt, a psychiatrist with Imperial College who played no role in the new study, said that high stress suffered by those with anxiety disorder generally comes with insomnia and lots of physical stress.
“That is bound to have a major impact on many physiological processes, including immune supervision of cancerous cells,” said Nutt, a former president of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
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