Female Night Shift Workers Have a Higher Risk for Developing Breast Cancer

Beth Brophy Health Guide
  • Here’s a mystery: A recent report in the New York Times found a link between female nightshift workers and elevated rates of breast cancer. Scientists don’t know if the link is caused by the stress of working nights or the dangers of artificial light. An earlier study, from 2004, found that women who worked night shifts had elevated levels of estrogen, which could lead to breast cancer. Another earlier study linked night shifts to breast cancer: More than 78,000 nurses were followed for a decade. Those who worked the night shifts were 1.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer.

    So cause and effect has yet to be determined, but I would use this study to bolster my anecdotal belief that a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to take care of yourself, mentally and physically. After I started working from home about eight years ago, and having more control over my schedule, and eventually getting more rest, I started to notice that other people were looking kind of haggard to my more rested eyes. This is also something I notice at family gatherings. Two of my brothers--one nearing 50 and one 55-- had children late in life, and now both have highly active four year olds. They, and their spouses, are always exhausted, which is something I remember quite well. My younger daughter, now 14, didn’t sleep through the night for about 6 years. I was always overtired. In fact, when people complain about the challenges of having teenagers, and there are many, I always think to myself, well at least I’m getting more sleep. Except for the nights when my daughters are out in cars with friends, or downtown at a night club listening to music, or otherwise not safe in their own beds, I can close my eyes and get some sleep.
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    In any case, unless you’re earning your living as a nurse or working the graveyard shift somewhere, or are otherwise employed as a night worker, do yourself a favor and get enough sleep.

Published On: April 27, 2006