Working the Night Shift May Boost Breast Cancer Risk

Working the night shift can throw off your body clock, leaving you feeling tired and sleep-deprived. But, increasingly, evidence suggests that shift work harms health in other ways, raising the risk of diabetes, obesity and even cancer.

In a study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers in Denmark found that women who worked night shifts were up to four times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who didn’t work nights.

Johnni Hansen, an epidemiologist at the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology at the Danish Cancer Society, and his colleague, Christina Lassen, studied 18,500 women who were in the Danish Army between 1964 and 1999. The researchers followed-up with 141 women who had developed breast cancer by 2005-06, and compared their medical histories with those of 551 women in the military who did not develop the disease. All of the participants filled out a detailed 28-page questionnaire asking about their working habits and whether they considered themselves “morning” or “night” people.

The researchers also asked the women about other factors that could affect breast cancer risk, including whether they used contraceptives, how many children they had, whether they used hormone replacement therapy if they were past menopause, and if they sunbathed. >

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