Journalist who linked King’s cancer to stress caused by Harry faces backlash

Cancer Research UK has told Yahoo News UK "stress doesn't cause cancer" in the wake of Victoria Mather's comments

King Charles and Prince Harry
Prince Harry returned to the UK less than 24 hours after the King announced his cancer diagnosis. (Alamy/Getty Images)

A journalist is facing fierce backlash after falsely claiming that stress is a "huge cause of cancer", and suggesting Prince Harry's departure as a senior royal could have contributed to the King's diagnosis.

Victoria Mather, who has worked for Vanity Fair, Tatler and the Telegraph, was speaking on LBC Radio's Rachel Johnson show in the wake of the the king's recent health problems.

"What I do know, and what is a fact, is that stress is a huge cause of cancer, it's the cause that's never talked about, it's the elephant in the room – stress.

"I speak as someone who survived cancer, and mine was definitely caused by stress, and we cannot possibly say that the King has not been stressed by events like 'Megxit', so I think that Prince Harry has to look at his part in this."

LBC's post on X, formerly Twitter, has subsequently been viewed more than 1.5 million times and sparked significant criticism, including challenged via the social media platform's Community Notes feature. A footnote underneath the clip links to Cancer Research UK, which says there is no evidence that "those who are more stressed are more likely to get cancer".

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Mather is now facing widespread criticism, not only for the accuracy of her comments but also for appearing to blame on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for the King's cancer. It is not known what type of cancer King Charles has, nor how advanced it is.

"The trouble when people express ill-conceived thoughts like this is that 1 million view the post," wrote ITV News royal editor Chris Ship. "I’m sure medics agree that Harry & Meghan’s exit from the Royal Family did not 'cause' King’s cancer any more than it caused a prostate issue which affects thousands of men each year."

Responding on X to someone suggesting that "stress causes many illnesses", Ship added: "But to single out Harry and Meghan as the single cause of stress which resulted in the King’s cancer is farcical and dangerous."

Sharing information from Cancer Research on how stress does not cause cancer, former British journalist Lorraine King added: "Tomorrow she'll blame Harry and Meghan for global warming."

Yahoo News UK has tried to contact Mather via her social media platform and a former employer.

'Stress doesn't cause cancer'

In a statement to Yahoo News following Mather's comments, Cancer Research UK said: "Stress doesn't cause cancer. However, different people respond to stress in different ways and for some people it can be harder to keep healthy during stressful times.

"For example, some people may smoke when they are stressed, which causes at least 15 different types of cancer. Some people may opt for less healthy foods, which can make keeping a healthy weight more difficult. There are proven steps that people can take if they are concerned about their risk of cancer. These include not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, and keeping a healthy weight."

The National Cancer Institute in the US, says that while chronic stress can lead to many health problems, "whether it is linked to cancer is not clear". It adds that studies to date have had varying results: "Even when stress appears to be linked to cancer risk, the relationship could be indirect."

Prince Harry's brief reunion with Charles

Less than 24 hours after Buckingham Palace announced the King's cancer diagnosis, Prince Harry flew from Los Angeles to London to see his father, arriving on Tuesday, 6 February.

With the Duke of Sussex's relationship with his family becoming seriously strained over the past few years, it was hoped in some quarters that the monarch's diagnosis could be an opportunity for Harry to mend ties with his father, and his older brother Prince William.

Harry spent around 45 minutes seeing Charles at his London home, Clarence House, and was pictured at Heathrow Airport leaving London the following day. The duke was not understood to have met William during the short visit to his home country.

Since stepping down as working royals in 2020 and moving to California with their family, the Sussexes have aired allegations and grievances against the monarchy and members of Harry’s family, including in a high-profile interview with Oprah Winfrey.