Early rising women at lower risk of breast cancer Study

Raelene Boyle and Judy Wild

Raelene Boyle and Judy Wild

Their findings suggest that "larks" - women who function better at the beginning of the day than the end - have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who love to lie-in.

The research, which is being presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow, also found that breast cancer risk increased by 20 per cent for every hour a women slept beyond the recommended amount of 7 to 8 hours a night.

The latest study looked at data on more than 400,000 women drawn from the UK Biobank, a charitable project, and a database held by the worldwide...

Results from 228,951 women enrolled in an global genetic study conducted by the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC) were also included in the analysis.

Mendelian randomisation analysis of these data revealed that approximately one less person per 100 will develop breast cancer if they have a morning preference compared to people who have an evening preference. While morning larks may have the upper hand when it comes to health and (possibly) happiness, it looks like night owls can take home the prize for being smarter, more creative, and more prolific lovers.

'It may not be the case that changing your habits changes your risk of breast cancer.

Rebecca Richmond, a research fellow at the University of Bristol involved in the study, said the findings could have implications for those working night shifts.

"We also found some evidence for a causal effect of increased sleep duration and sleep fragmentation on breast cancer, assessed using objective measurements of sleep obtained from movement monitors worn by participants", she added.

"What we can be certain of is that all women - larks and owls - can reduce their risk of breast cancer by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing their alcohol intake".

The researchers believe their findings have implications for policy-makers and employers.

Dan Damon has been speaking to one of the researchers, Professor Richard Martin - an expert in cancer epidemiology from the University of Bristol. "We would like to use genetic data from large populations to further understand how disrupting the body's natural body clock can contribute to breast cancer risk", she said. The World Health Organization already says disruption to people's body clocks because of shift work is probably linked to cancer risk.

Dipender Gill, of Imperial College London, said: "Although informative and interesting, this study alone does not warrant any action other than further investigation - people should not be changing their sleep patterns based on the evidence presented here".

In total, 341 variants linked to circadian rhythm and no other known risk factors for cancer (for example, obesity) were analyzed.

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