Night shift female workers are on higher risk of common cancer

Henrietta Strickland
January 10, 2018

Conducted by the researchers from Sichuan University in China, the research is the result of the analysis of 61 different studies covering almost four million people across North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. There is a positive association between long-term night shift work and the risk of several common cancers for women, with evidence of a dose-response correlation, according to a study published online January 8 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The overall risk of cancer among all of the participants increased by 19 percent. Each of the studies was analyzed for an association between prolonged night shift work and increased susceptibility to 11 types of cancer.

A further analysis was conducted which looked specifically at long-term night shift work and risk of six types of cancer among female nurses. By casting the net wider, Ma analyzed the risks posed by nearly a dozen types of cancer to women who work nights.

The researchers observed a positive correlation between long-term night shift work and the risks of breast, digestive system, and skin cancers (odds ratios, 1.316, 1.177, and 1.408, respectively). According to new research, continuous shifts at irregular hours may increase the risk of common cancers among women.

The results were particularly pronounced among nurses, according to the study.

When analysing specific cancers, the researchers found that this population had an increased risk of skin (41 per cent), breast (32 per cent), and gastrointestinal cancer (18 per cent) compared with women who did not perform long-term night shift work. "Long-term night shift workers should have regular physical examinations and cancer screenings". As night shift relates to more intensive shifts, there is a possibility in women to get diagnosed with it.

The researchers also tell that those nurses who are working in a medical industry and are on a night shift are needed to go for the screening about it at different intervals.

There are likely several factors that put night shift workers at higher risk for certain cancers, but previous studies in animals and people suggest that disruptions to hormone levels might be one. "It is warranted that long term night shifters take [advantage of] tumor screening and that protection measures for personnel should also be considered".

Disrupting the normal sleep-wake cycle can also affect genes responsible for repairing DNA, which could lead to more abnormally growing cells that become cancerous.

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