Last week we learned that drinking alcohol — any kind! — increases women’s risk of developing breast cancer. This week, just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, another study adds “stress at work” to the laundry list of factors that can add to women’s chances of getting that most ubiquitous cancer. The study, published in the journal Epidemiology, found that the risk of breast cancer increased by about 30 percent for women with “stressful” jobs.
Meanwhile, a report from the American Cancer Society — also out last week — found that the breast cancer death rate in the U.S. continues to drop by more than 2 percent a year. This encouraging statistic isn’t reflected in the deluge of reports telling women that our lifestyles are killing us.
The workplace stress study is awfully presumptuous about what constitutes a stressful job, and its lead researcher admits she can’t fully explain the findings or the rather frightening implications. And what about the stress of being bombarded with news about the day-to-day things that put us at risk? Every time we turn around, something else is being linked to breast cancer. Maybe this pink ribbon fever pitch is supposed to be comforting, evidence that we’re learning more about cancer, even if we still can’t cure it. Certainly some of the findings are constructive, but many are also inconclusive and unnecessary.
Adding another layer to all these reports, a survey by the National Breast Cancer Coalition found that “misinformation abounds” when it comes to key facts about breast cancer. That may be the most telling study of them all.