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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: No Association Between Adjustment Disorder and Cancer

Adjustment disorder, a psychiatric diagnosis of those who exhibit extreme behavioral symptoms or emotions in response to stressors that lead to impairment of social or occupational functioning, is common. However, research on its physical health consequences is limited, and prior studies examining whether cancer is a consequence of the disorder have been inconclusive.

Now, a new study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers has found no evidence of an association between adjustment disorder and cancer. The study was published in Acta Oncologica.“The association between stress and cancer has long been discussed in the scientific literature and in clinical settings,” says senior author Dr. Jaimie Gradus, associate professor of epidemiology at BUSPH. “Evidence from studies to date is mixed, however, and most studies have only examined associations between a single stressful event and a single type of cancer.”

Using data from the Danish national health and social registries, the researchers analyzed the nationwide medical and administrative registries of Denmark from 1995 to 2013. They then measured the impact of adjustment disorder diagnosis on the incidence of 33 type-specific malignancies. Despite adjustment disorder being associated with a 20 percent higher rate of smoking- and alcohol-related cancer, the researchers found no overall association between the disorder and cancer incidence.

“This is consistent with other research from our group that showed no association between post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer type in the same population,” says Dr. Gradus.

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