Morning people less likely to get breast cancer

Faith Castro
November 9, 2018

"What we would like to look at next is the interplay between our innate preference, to being a morning person or an evening person, and our actual behavior", lead researcher Dr. Rebecca Richmond told British newspaper The Independent.

The participants included 180,215 women enrolled with the UK Biobank project - a large long-term study which includes genomic data on about half a million people - and 228,951 women who had been part of a study on breast cancer carried out by the global Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC), which has the largest collection of genetic data on women with breast cancer in the world.

Around one in seven women in the United Kingdom will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, and well-known risk factors include smoking, alcohol, age and family history.

The data from the BCAC group of participants showed that women who were morning types, also known as "larks", had a 40 per cent reduced risk of breast cancer compared with those who were evening types, or "owls".

This echoes previous studies which found night-shift workers and those exposed to more artificial light at night are at greater risk of cancer.

"We know already that night shift work is associated with worse mental and physical health".

"More work is needed to understand why sleep characteristics may be linked to breast cancer risk".

It affects everything from when we sleep, to our mood and even our risk of a heart attack. Dr Richmond said:"These findings have potential policy implications for influencing sleep habits of the general population in order to improve health and reduce risk of breast cancer among women".

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In other words, it may not be the case that changing your habits changes your risk of breast cancer, it may be more complex than that.

The consortium has the largest collection of genetic data on women with breast cancer obtained so far.

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"The statistical method used in this study, called Mendelian randomization, does not always allow causality to be inferred", said Dipender Gill, clinical research training fellow at Imperial College London.

Scientists at Bristol University, UK, have found that something as simple as your internal body clock (or circadian rhythm) can play an important role in how likely (or not) you are to be diagnosed with cancer.

"Women need to talk to their doctors and the benefits of screenings, self-breast examinations and risk factors".

However, cancer experts say modifying your sleep patterns probably won't have a significant impact on your cancer risk.

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