Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Woman achievers, stress and cancer

I'm just throwing a thought, a question, out this morning. Along with the headline sudden death of this Christmas, I received in an email exchange with an old workmate news that a woman ex-colleague died of cancer last month. Nothing unusual about that, you may think, but she's either either the fourth or fifth that I know about - albeit over about twenty years. 

They all had certain things in common. They were ambitious achievers, in reasonably senior positions and all worked under greater than usual stress and all have died of cancer in their 40s and 50s. The blokes all seem to be buggering on, with various ailments coming with age but not the attrition rate of the big C. And that's anecdotal, not empirical, so not science.

The science I can find tends to say there's no link between stress and female cancer but the many answers seem to indicate that I'm not the only one seeing a correlation and asking the question. Which is, does busting the glass ceiling, competing with men in a male-normative environment, and coping with above normal stress, increase the cancer risk for women?

H, who died most recently, had actually left her high-stress job more than a year ago to do something far more relaxed, that she enjoyed, in a county city that she loved. So poignant.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nature left alone would have culled some of them before cancer, but every cause f death eliminated leaves a space to be filled by the others. Probability of death = 1, and this = sum of partial probabilities.

Anonymous said...

I subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as equality of the sexes, men will never be equal to women, nor the other way around.

Rather, the two sexes are complementary, the two added together make a whole.

The reason that more is not made of this, I presume, is that we are all told that in the modern world that we can be anything that we want, we can even change sex.

This is about commercial productivity and over taxation, the reason that we have doubled the number in the workplace is try and further break the natural way for humans to live.

Men are specialists whereas women are generalists, men are happy to juggle with one ball, just as long as they are doing it perfectly, women will always try to juggle with at least three and they will try to get the fourth and fifth ball into the arc, not surprising that it takes its toll.

right-writes

Nick Drew said...

not empirical, so not science

But equally, no need to apologise for hypothesising [and obviously, you're not] because that's how most of the great discoveries are made - following up on a hunch

even more laudable (if I may say so) you've only talked in terms of 'link' and 'correlation', so you're keeping open all the potential dynamics of any causality. It must be worth considering whether a particular type of cancer-prone person is drawn to particular fields of endeavour

[few people find that kind of reasoning hard to believe of those drawn to the arts]

meltemian said...

right-writes,
I agree with your analysis, as a generalisation men are single-minded achievers while women will strive to manage everything thrown at them.

Poisonedchalice said...

And my 34 year old niece is recovering from ovarian cancer. Big job in BMW UK and 2 young kids. Very scary times for her!

Anonymous said...

You may have something there Raedwald, quite a few of my sister's grammar school generation (graduated early 70's) hit the heights in the 90's and half of them are either ill or dead now.

On the male/female brain thing I remember instructing a group of female junior NCO's on ambush/anti-ambush techniques and the difference in performance was marked between them and the blokes. Male soldiers listen intently once they know the seriousness of the skill they are about to learn. The women soldiers looked bemused most of the time. The ambush is a set-piece of controlled violence, with multiple traps, which are triggered by an enemy going into panic mode. The anti-ambush is a type of tactical withdrawal where extreme violence is used against one of those trigger points i.e. you make a weakness and break out.

The girls weren't violent enough for either to be successful.

Steve

Oldrightie said...

Dear Mrs OR fought a terrible battle with cancer when a high achiever. She pretty well won the physical fight back in 2000 but the traumatic consequences left her bereft of a great deal of self confidence only now returning.

Certainly a return to her top job, offered with huge incentives, was available but one we both agreed she should decline due to the stress involved. So I would subscribe willingly to your hypothesis.

Boggart Blogger said...

We often find that when no 'scientific evidence' exists for some trend or phenomenon, it is likely to be because nobody has conducted a properly controlled scientific study.
Logically, where is the profit for Big Pharma in publishing a study that says, "If you want to reduce your chances of cancer ladies, slow down a bit, go for a walk by the river, take up knitting or something. And do it now because the seeds of this disease can be planted decades before it manifests itself as life threatening.

Anonymous said...

Women live longer than men - still.

DeeDee99 said...

As a moderately-achieving woman, I concur with Anonymous that in general men strive to highly achieve in one specialism, whilst women tend towards multi-tasking roles - both in work at in their private lives.

Most women these days are acting as carers for someone, be it their children (sometimes into their 20s these days)and/or elderly parents. And that's in addition to caring for elderly parents.

They also tend to have networks of friends, who CAN be supportive, but who can also load on the stress if they are going through a needy patch.

I suspect the increase in cancer is not a direct result of the additional stress, but the coping mechanisms women are choosing: smoking and in particular, alcohol. I saw it in my own workplace before I decided to de-stress my life and take early retirement; several of the high-achieving women got cancer at a relatively young age.

I believe most cancers are lifestyle-related.

Dadad said...

I think that ME may also be caused partly by women who try and keep too many balls in the air at the same time. Speaking anecdotally from family experience.

Anonymous said...

Anecdotally, in my wider circle of people I knew and of, a couple or three female senior civil servants working in and around London have succumbed to cancer and in their early to late fifties, admittedly one was cirrhosis of the liver. And two others, one who was in the banking sector, another in insurance.

The female seeks to make sense and to enforce order on intangibles, ever searching for the ideal world.

Men are pragmatists and see life from a slimmer perspective.

English Pensioner said...

I wonder how many of these women were heavy smokers and/or drinkers. I've watched a few women in high level jobs and I've always got the impression that they smoke and drink far more than men in equivalent jobs. I've also watched women drivers when driving to work, far more women seem to be smoking at the wheel than men.
My argument is that it's not the job directly that causes cancer, but the things that the job causes women to do that is the problem.

rapscallion said...

Anonymous at 28 December 2016 at 04:09
"Women live longer than men - still."

Maybe its because men want to die earlier :-)

APL said...

So, brain-washed feminists aspire to be ( second rate ) men, when they could have been first class women.

They start exhibiting some of the symptoms of stress related occupational conditions previously the preserve of men.

Boo-Hoo!

DeeDee99 said...

Just goes to show that women can "have it all" - including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer ..... and heart disease, strokes, depression and suicide. Just like men ...... only possibly younger.



Ravenscar. said...

"Just goes to show that women can "have it all" - including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer ..... and heart disease, strokes, depression and suicide. Just like men ...... only possibly younger."

That's kind of sad DeeDee, as a society truly: we have lost our way.

Everybody is equal, that is only right but it is also true that women do certain stuff far more expertly than men and equally men do other stuff where ladies should have the good sense to demur.

APL said...

Ravenscar: "Everybody is equal, ... "

Conveniently, the left always forget to finish that sentence.

'Everybody is equal before the law'. It cannot be extrapolated to all other aspects of life, just that you should be able to expect equal treatment if you are a pauper than if you are an Earl.

Now as I have expanded it, you can see it is an aspirational clause. We know that even in the narrow legal sense it is unlikely to be true all the time. But we would strive toward it.

What is doesn't say is that men are equal to women in childbirth, women are equal to men in athletics, ( if the Olympic times are compared the best women in the world frequently come fourth of fifth behind the best men - sport is segregated* to hide this disadvantage ) women are not equal to men in physical characteristics, Men on average are physically larger.

* as in many other aspects of societal organisation, women are cosseted and protected with advantages they take for granted.

Anonymous said...

Having long lived ex-patria, last year I received a newsy update from a female who has appointed herself to collect and disseminate gossip about the other women in our 'group' (10-15 or so). Truly, she listed everyone but the two of us, and they had either died of cancer, or been widowed by its means.

It really made me wonder: What's wrong with British medicine? Or is it something in the food? On another hand, it is possible that some kinds of cancer are transmissible - so had they lived with, or cared for family members who had it?

Now outwardly, all these women had happy lives, having married the men they chose and had the children they wanted. Not having accomplished that myself, about 25 years ago I spoke with an American therapist and wondered if I'd be lucky enough to "die of cancer" soon. He laughed, and said "No, not you!" I think his point was that I'm pretty efficient at expressing my stress verbally; I don't keep my misery secret or nurture a grudge for years.

I know that at least three or four of the other women had married womanisers; they had reacted with the usual British reserve, and so had held family life together. Being myself without the family advantage, I became the highest achiever in a worldly/academic sense and got the PhD. The 'newsy' one? Well she's expressive also, and she married a doctor (who has to toe the line). But ... witness also an American woman who's just enriched the US cancer-fighting establishment; she's spent hundreds of thousands (successfully) fighting her cancer, and with the full emotional support of a very loyal husband.

So... Perhaps cancer has some ties to suppression of emotions, or to the inability to control personal situations. We also do know that other factors like food and environment pay into its development (cigarettes, e.g). But no; I don't think the 'epidemic' boils down to feminazism.

Anonymous said...

"I know that at least three or four of the other women had married womanisers; they had reacted with the usual British reserve, and so had held family life together. "

Interesting to note, it's the man's fault. Not the woman's bad choice of mate, or because the wives were unsatisfactory in one or other respect?

As usual in this femineaucracy fault always lies with the male.

And then of course, men are moulded most of all by ..... their mothers.