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Working the Night Shift Could Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer

| Date Posted: 7/16/2012 | Author: Mandy McCue

Everyone has had the feeling of waking up on the “wrong side of the bed.”  Tired and grouchy, all you can think about is the next time you can sleep. Lack of sleep can cause more than grouchiness. According to a sleep deprivation article Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance by Paula Alhola and Päivi Polo-Kantola, sleep deprivation can also cause cognitive impairment, hallucinations, impaired immune systems, and an increased risk of heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

The amount of sleep needed to stay healthy changes as we get older. Infants need 14 to 15 hours, toddlers 12 to 14 hours, school-age children 10 to 11 hours, and adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. But if we know how much sleep we need then why are people sleep deprived? Common reasons for sleep deprivation include but are not limited to

  • Personal choice
  • Illness
  • Sleep disorder
  • Medications
  • Sleeping environment
  • Young children
  • Work
(Source: Better Health Channel: Sleep Deprivation)

Work, night shift work in particular, has fallen under speculation for causing poor health. Recent articles from the Huffington Post show that shift work may increase the risk of breast cancer in women who work late night shifts for more than three years. According to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer  the French National Health and Medical Research Institute-led team said an association between night work with breast cancer “was mainly observed in women working over night shifts, those who worked at night for 4.5 years or more and less than three nights per week on average.” The study was conducted by French researchers from the Centre for research in Epidemiology and Population Health. The researchers took 1,232 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2005 and 2007 and compared the group with 1,300 other woman. Of all women, 11 percent worked night shifts at least once in their careers. The study found that women who work the night shift have a 30% increased chance of developing breast cancer.

There are a few hypotheses for the correlation, one being the result of disturbances in the body’s circadian rhythms, or the “body clock.”  It has been argued that it also suppresses production of the hormone melatonin and other metabolic and physiological processes that may increase the growth of tumors.  The other hypothesis is a lack of sunlight and vitamin D. The vitamin D hypothesis was already proven false because studies show that women who work night shifts sunbathe more than women who work during the day. (Source: The Guardian) Research is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

FirstHealth Moore Regional HospitalFirstHealth Cancer Services has expertise providing cancer treatment to the Pinehurst, Sanford, Raeford, Laurinburg, Lumberton, Troy and Rockingham regions of North Carolina.  For more information on treatment options call (910) 715-3500.

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