The human body undergoes specific wear and tear as a result of chronic lifelong stress, which increases the likelihood of death from cancer, researchers from the University of Georgia concluded.
Such wear and tear is called allostatic stress in science; it represents the cumulative effect of stress over time.
In response to external stressors, our body produces a stress hormone called cortisol, and then when the stress passes, those levels should drop again, says Justin Xavier Moore, a doctoral epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia. However, if you have chronic, persistent psychosocial stressors that never allow cortisol to drop, it can lead to wear on your body on a biological level.
A retrospective analysis involving more than 41,000 people between 1988 and 2019 found that lifelong stress increases the likelihood of tumor mortality. So far, there has been limited research on the link between allostatic stress and cancer.
The researchers found that even without adjusting for any other factors like age, sex, race, wealth and education level, people with high allostatic burden were 2.4 times more likely to die from cancer than their peers with low burden. Adjusted for these factors, people with allostatic burden were 28% more likely to die from cancer.