Chronic Stress Related to Cancer Incidence, including the Role of Metabolic Syndrome Components

An Thanh Pham*, Boukje A.C. van Dijk*, Eline S. van der Valk*, Bert van der Vegt*, Elisabeth F.C. van Rossum, Geertruida H. de Bock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Epidemiological results on the link between chronic stress and cancer initiation have been inconsistent. This study examined the relation between chronic biological stress, indicated as hair cortisol (HairF) and hair cortisone (HairE), and cancer incidence, adjusting for metabolic syndrome (MetS) components. We analyzed HairF and HairE samples from 6341 participants from the population-based cohort Lifelines in 2014. A linkage with the Dutch Nationwide Pathology Databank (Palga) provided the cancer incidence from 2015 to 2021. The association between dichotomized HairF and log-transformed HairE (LogHairE) and cancer incidence was estimated using Cox regression. MetS components were evaluated as confounders or moderators. Of the 2776 participants with known HairF levels and no cancer history, 238 developed cancer. The HairF level did not predict cancer incidence (HR: 0.993, 95%CI: 0.740–1.333). No confounders or moderators were identified. Among the 4699 participants with known HairE levels and no cancer history, 408 developed cancer. There was no association between LogHairE and cancer incidence (HR: 1.113, 95%CI: 0.738–1.678). When including age as a confounder and gender as a moderator, LogHairE was statistically significantly associated with cancer incidence (HR: 6.403, 95%CI: 1.110–36.92). In a population-based cohort, chronic biological stress, measured by HairE, was associated with cancer incidence, after controlling for age and gender.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2044
Number of pages13
Issue number11
Early online date28 May 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

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