New Study Gives Another Reason for Night Shifts to be Avoided.
The night shift is often avoided for many reasons. It could throw off your sleep schedule, make you stressed and sleep deprived, among other undesirable factors, but a study by a team of Danish researchers found another surprising downside to the night shift. Working the night shift could make you up to 40% more likely to develop breast cancer. Strides in breast cancer research have found many possible causes of breast cancer, but this one seems somewhat surprising. The numbers found, though, show that these findings could be crucial to breast cancer prevention.
The Night Shift and Breast Cancer Study
From 1964 to 1999, Johnni Hansen, lead researcher at the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology at the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen, and his colleagues collected data from about 18,500 women working in the Danish Army. Their results and what they found out about breast cancer were astonishing.
Can Working Night Shifts Cause Breast Cancer?Women who worked the night shift were 40% more likely to developing breast cancer, and the more they worked the night shift, the higher the risk. Another interesting factor in the night shift breast cancer study? Women who identified as morning people and worked the night shift had a four times higher risk of developing breast cancer.
The team has not reported concrete cause-and-affect reasons for their correlation between the night shift and cancer, but they’re not the first ones to suggest it. In 2007, International Agency for Research on Cancer said that working the night shift could put people more at risk for cancer, and these numbers from the study about breast cancer back this up. The team does have several theories, though.
What Causes Breast Cancer? Findings from the Study...
Though the team doesn’t have all the answers about what causes breast cancer from this study, they say that exposure to artificial light while working decreases the amount of melatonin that your body produces, which fights breast cancer. Also, the sleep deprivation that is a result of working the night shift weakens your immune system, which isn’t good for anything health related, including breast cancer. This shifting of sleep phases when on the night shift can also throw off your circadian cell cycle.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
There are plenty of other breast cancer risk factors aside from working the night shift that should be considered as well. There are some that can’t be changed, such as age, gender and genetic makeup, but when it comes to breast cancer prevention, there are steps we can take.
- Birth Control Pills: Studies show that birth control pills can increase the risk for breast cancer, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before going on the pill.
- Having Children Later in Life or Not at All: Women who have children at a younger age show a lower risk for breast cancer.
- Alcohol: Though one drink doesn’t increase risks very much, frequent alcohol drinking has been clearly linked to breast cancer.
- Lack of Exercise: This goes hand-in-hand with another breast cancer risk factor: obesity.
- Not Breast-Feeding: Some studies have shown a slight decrease in the risk of developing breast cancer for those who breast-feed.