Shift Work: A Risk Factor for Breast Cancer?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that millions of Americans work as shift workers. They are those who perform their jobs outside of the regular 9am-5pm schedule. Primarily, they comprise police officers, nurses, commercial drivers, pilots, customer service representatives and bridge builders. United States relies heavily on them in order to meet the demands of globalization. However, shift workers face inherent health risks. Women, in particular, double their risk for breast cancer as they work in odd hours long-term. A study released online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine has found this out.


The research team investigated 1,134 women with breast cancer and 1,179 without the illness. They are of similar age and living in Kingston, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia. They also performed different occupations. They were asked to provide essential information, such as their work history, work schedule (to determine the shift work pattern), and hospital records (to identify tumor type). Both groups had one in three women working on night shifts.

It was not evident for those who rendered work at nighttime for until 14 years or between 15 and 29 years if they had increased risk for the disease. However, those who worked night shift longer (30 years and more) were found to have twice the risk of developing breast cancer. Factors that can possibly influence this occurrence were taken into account. The numbers, though, were relatively trivial. The connection between shift work and breast cancer has been placed on melatonin. However, distressed body rhythms, lifestyle differences, sleep disruptions and vitamin D may play an important role.

The authors concluded that shift work may be important to several occupations, especially with the aim of every country to be globally competitive, but it is also necessary to recognize or study which particular shift patterns escalate risk to breast cancer and how this type of work paves the way to the development of breast cancer.

Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among American women. It is estimated that 1 in 8 women in the United States will suffer from invasive breast cancer. For the year 2013, the American Cancer Society approximates that there will be about 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer and about 64,640 new incidences of carcinoma in situ. The organization also estimates that about 39,620 women will die from the disease.

Breast cancer is the second leading reason for the death of women. The first is lung cancer. One in 36 women is likely to die of the disease. Since 1989, there has been significant decrease in breast cancer death rates. The larger reductions were apparent in women under 50. The said decreases are said to be the outcome of earlier detection of the disease through breast screening. Likewise, increased awareness and enhanced treatment for the illness played an important role. Other than conventional treatment methods, other breast cancer patients also take their chances in alternative cancer treatments.

With research from Science Daily and American Cancer Society


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