Take Note Working in shifts could lead to development of breast cancer

The researchers urged women with a family risk of breast cancer to never work shifts, but cautioned that further tests in people were needed.

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play (BBC)
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A new study has shown that irregular sleeping patterns "unequivocally"  lead to cancer in tests on mice.

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

The researchers urged women with a family risk of breast cancer to never work shifts, but cautioned that further tests in people were needed.

Studies in people have often suggested a higher risk of diseases such as breast cancer in shift workers and flight attendants, with arguments suggesting that disrupting the body's internal rhythm or body clock increases the risk of disease.

The link is, however, uncertain because the type of person who works shifts may also be more likely to develop cancer due to 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 tumours after 50 weeks, but with regular disruption to their sleeping patterns, the tumours appeared 8 weeks earlier.

According to the report, "this is the first study that unequivocally shows a link between chronic light-dark inversions and breast cancer development."

While admitting that interpreting the consequences for humans could be challenging, the researchers guesstimated the equivalent effect could be an extra 10kg of body weight or for at-risk women getting cancer about 5 years earlier.

Various health experts thus warned on the consequences of rotational shift work.

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