Health Facts Constant exposure to jetlag could lead to cancer - Researchers say

While the time-shifted mice developed tumors in an average of 42 weeks, the control mice developed them in an average of 50 weeks.

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play (Yale Scientific)
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New research has shown that regularly subjecting one's self to jetlag can increase the chance of developing cancer.

A team of researchers from the Netherlands raised female mice that were genetically predisposed to breast cancer in an environment that simulated chronic jet lag, in which the timing of light and dark, and warm and cool, were swapped once a week.

They found that the mice living in this time-shifted environment developed breast cancer far more quickly than those in a control group, who were raised in a normal environment.

While the time-shifted mice developed tumors in an average of 42 weeks, the control mice developed them in an average of 50 weeks.

Also, the jet-lagged mice also gained significantly more weight than the control group, even though they didn't eat any more food.

Erasmus University professor and study co-author, Bert van der Hoorst, said the most likely explanation was that they stemmed from problems in the mice's circadian system or "internal clock" found in virtually every organism which controls bodily functions as crucial as breathing, digestion and sleep.

According to Harvard professor Frank Scheer, who studies circadian rhythms, "the general hypothesis is that certain processes in the body take place at a certain time of day. These processes may be incompatible with each other, so you need to separate them in time,"

He said further:

"If different organs in the body are out of sync with one another, they may end up performing functions that are incompatible."

According to Scheer, one of the interesting things about this new study is that it demonstrated a link between circadian cycle disruption and cancer.

Mice don't produce melatonin, a sleep-related hormone that is thought to have cancer-fighting properties, and neither of these mice cohorts were exposed to sunlight, so they had the same levels of vitamin D, which some believe could play a role in cancer defense.

While pointing out the need to validate the effect of jetlag on humans, van der Hoorst said it would likely have the same effect as was found in mice.

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