Breast Cancer Linked To Shift Work

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Shift work linked to breast cancer.Breast Cancer Linked To Shift Work, Disrupted Sleep

Poor sleeping patterns stemming from shift work have been shown to lead to cancer in tests on mice, a study suggests.

The report, in Current Biology, lends weight to concerns about the damaging impact of shift work on health.

Researchers said women with a family risk of breast cancer should avoid working shifts, but cautioned that further tests in people were needed.

The study found that test animals gained 20% more weight when sleep patterns were altered, despite eating the same amount of food.

Studies in people have often suggested a higher risk of diseases such as breast cancer in shift workers and flight attendants.

One argument is disrupting the body’s internal rhythm – or body clock – increases the risk of disease.

However, the link is uncertain because the type of person who works shifts may also be more likely to develop cancer due to other factors. Such as social class, activity levels or the amount of vitamin D they get.

Mice prone to developing breast cancer had their body clock delayed by 12 hours every week for a year.

Normally they had tumors after 50 weeks – but with regular disruption to their sleeping patterns, the tumors appeared eight weeks earlier.

The report said: “This is the first study that unequivocally shows a link between chronic light-dark inversions and breast cancer development.”

Researchers estimated the equivalent effect on humans could be an extra 10kg (8lb) of body weight. Or for at-risk women, getting cancer about five years earlier.


Higher Risk For Breast Cancer


“I would advise people not to work as flight attendants or to do shift work. Especially where there’s a family history of breast cancer.” oneĀ  researcher, Gijsbetus van der Horst, from the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said.

Dr Michael Hastings, from the UK’s Medical Research Council, announced: “This study proves [in mouse models] that circadian [body clock] disruption can accelerate the development of breast cancer.

“The public health message here is that shift work, particularly rotational shift work, is a stress and therefore it has consequences.”

“There are things people doing shift work should be looking out for. Pay more attention to your body weight. Pay more attention to inspecting breasts. And employers should offer more in-work health checks.”

Source: James Gallagher Health editor, BBC News July 2015


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