Women Working Night Shifts Poses Increased Cancer Risk


Working the night shift is linked to a number of health issues, from heart disease to obesity to sleep disorders—and even cancer. Now, in a new report, researchers in China found that Night shifts significantly increase women’s chances of cancer. According to a study, women who work the night shift have a 19% increased risk of developing cancer compared to women do not work at night.

Lead author Xuelei Ma explained that because breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among women worldwide, most previous meta-analyses have focused on understanding the association between female night shift workers and breast cancer risk, but the conclusions have been inconsistent. To build upon previous studies, Ma and colleagues analyzed whether long-term night shift work in women was associated with risk for nearly a dozen types of cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 15 million people in the United States have irregular working patterns, including night shifts. Previous research has shown that night shift work can severely disrupt our circadian rhythm. This is the internal clock that regulates the body’s physiological processes over a 24-hour cycle, and it primarily responds to light and dark in the environment.

“Night shift, as a current social phenomenon, is gaining rising popularity and can have adverse effects on health,” Ma said in an email to Xinhua. “It’s warranted for long-term night shifters to receive tumor screening. Meanwhile, personnel protection measures should be considered.”

A limitation of this work is a lack of consistency between studies regarding the definition of “long-term” night shift work, with definitions including “working during the night” and “working at least three nights per month.” Additional limitations include significant between-study heterogeneity and publication bias.

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