It’s estimated that at least 20% of the workforce in the USA and in Europe work the so-called graveyard shift, either as their primary shift, or at least more than half of the time—that includes yours truly. A new study has confirmed what was suspected by many—that night shift workers face significant health risks, and places women who work this shift at an alarmingly high for breast cancer.
Here is what this study found:
As many as 20% of people in Europe and the U.S. work the night shift. Exactly how night shift work may increase breast cancer risk is not clear. In 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that shift work disrupting the body clock or circadian rhythms may cause cancer. Such night work reduces production of the hormone melatonin.
Working up to two night shifts per week did not influence breast cancer risk. This may not be long enough to disrupt the body clock, study authors conclude. What’s more, risk was also higher among self-described “morning” people, or “larks,” who were working the night shift. Larks may be more susceptible to body-clock disruption than owls.
Maria Weis MD, explains the remarkable findings this way:
“It’s probably the combined effect of getting less quality sleep — fewer hours, with a disruption of circadian rhythms, more light at night — and lower levels of melatonin, which is believed to play a role in regulating normal cell growth,” she says. “Since the biggest risk factor for breast cancer in women is aging, it’s not surprising that getting less quality rest may play a role, since that’s the key time each day that we have to repair aging effects, i.e. the wear and tear of everyday living.”
Many of us night shift workers just can’t quit our jobs, and it might be impractical to switch shifts. Many of work this shift because it allows us more time with young children, or maybe we have just become used to working these hours. For some helpful information about this disturbing association, please see the the original article here. You can also see my product reviews for helpful suggestions which may help you sleep well in the day (as a day sleeper I have found this product essential).