New research into cancer risks has found women who work night shift are almost 20 per cent more likely to develop cancer than women who work during the day.
Published in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, Chinese researchers performed a meta-analysis using data from over 100,000 cancer cases and nearly 4 million participants from North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. They aimed to specifically analyse whether prolonged night shift work was associated with an increased risk of contracting 11 of the most common types of cancers found in women.
Alarmingly, long-term night shift work among women increased the risk of cancer by 19 percent. Specifically, the researchers found that the women studied had an increased risk of skin (41 percent), breast (32 percent), and gastrointestinal cancer (18 percent) compared with women who did not perform any long-term night shift work.
The researchers also noted that the risk of breast cancer increased by 3.3 percent for every five years of night shift work.
Researchers also conducted a further analysis which looked specifically at cancer amongst nurses. They found nurses who worked the night shift had an increased risk of breast (58 percent), gastrointestinal (35 percent), and lung cancer (28 percent) compared with nurses who didn’t work any night shifts.
It’s important to note that this is not the first time night shift work has been linked to an increased cancer risk. In fact, night shift work has long been linked to poor health. Previous research has shown night shift work can severely disrupt our circadian rhythm, and is commonly linked to obesity and heart disease.
The researchers say the disturbing findings highlight the need for specific health protection programs, including regular physical examinations and cancer screenings.
“These results might help establish and implement effective measures to protect female night shifters.”
“Given the expanding prevalence of shift work worldwide and the heavy public burden of cancers, we initiated this study to draw public attention to this issue so that more large cohort studies will be conducted to confirm these associations.”
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