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Men who suffer from chronic anxiety are twice as likely to die from cancer, according to a new study.

For the study, researchers scoured through the medical data of 15,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 79, all of whom resided in the U.K. They discovered that men diagnosed with chronic anxiety disorder were twice as likely to die from cancer throughout the study than men who had not been diagnosed with any chronic anxiety disorder. What's interesting is that only men with anxiety had this significant increase of death from cancer, not women. It's unclear why anxiety disorder increases the risk of cancer-related death in men and not women, but researchers highlighted this fact in their findings.

Of course, chronic anxiety disorder is a condition in which a person experiences prolonged, ongoing anxiety. It's often accompanied with symptoms like muscle tension, insomnia, difficulty concentrating and fatigue, as described by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

So, why exactly do men with chronic anxiety have a greater risk of dying from cancer than their counterparts who don't suffer from anxiety? This is a question that remains to be answered, although it could be associated with the effects of anxiety on the immune system. When you suffer from anxiety, especially chronic anxiety, it causes the body to produce and release more stress hormones like cortisol. Numerous studies have found that increased levels of stress hormones weakens and suppresses the immune system, making it harder to protect against illness and disease.

The general idea is that chronic anxiety suppresses the immune system, allowing cancer to take hold and spread more rapidly; thus, increasing the risk of death.

"With this study, we show that anxiety is more than just a personality trait, but rather, it is a disorder that may be associated with risk of death from conditions such as cancer," said the study's lead author in a statement. "Society may need to consider anxiety as a warning signal for poor health."

The good news is that you can often protect against chronic anxiety by making some simple changes to your lifestyle. This includes getting a good night's rest (minimum of seven hours of sleep per night), eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet, and maintaining a positive attitude throughout your day-to-day activities. These otherwise simple changes can make a big different in your stress levels, and subsequently, your overall health.

This study was presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress. Researchers plan to publish it in a medical journal, although details have yet to be announced.

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