A new study indicates that irregular sleeping or not catching sufficient sleep may lead to cancer, particularly if there is previous history of cancer in the family.
The study, conducted by a team of Netherlands researchers, looks at the impact of chronic circadian rhythm disturbance (CRD) or the alternating of light cycles on breast cancer.
Previously, other studies indicated that due to this shift, the risk of breast cancer is more prevalent in shift-workers, for instance flight attendants. Yet, conclusive evidence was lacking.
This new study, conducted on mice, manipulated their circadian rhythm by delaying the mice’s sleep by 12 hours each week. While some of the mice were kept in a stable light/dark environment, another group was observed under alternating light cycles.
Typically, in previous studies looking at the occurrence of breast cancer in mice, the first cells were recorded within 50 weeks. This time however, the group of mice observed under the alternating light cycles developed the cancer cells as much as eight weeks in advance. 80 percent of the mice that experienced CRD developed cancer following the experiment.
Not only did the alternating of light cycles and CRD affect cancer cells, but they led to increased weight, at 20 percent more than before the study.
In light of these findings, the researchers drew attention particularly to women who have a family history of cancer. Alternating light cycles and changing the circadian rhythm due to working in shifts, particularly night shift and not catching sufficient sleep increases the chances of breast cancer significantly.
“If you had a situation where a family is at risk for breast cancer, I would certainly advise those people not to work as a flight attendant or to do shift work. There are things people should be looking out for – pay more attention to your body weight, pay more attention to inspecting breasts, and employers should offer more in-work health checks”.
said Gijsbetus van der Horst, researcher at the Erasmus University Medical Centre.
This study is however limited as it was conducted on mice. Once a larger study would include human participants under observation, conclusions could change in relation to sleep patterns and CRD
The study can be found in the journal Current Biology.
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