November: Sleep and breast cancer

Breast cancer awareness

Women whose body clocks mean they are "morning people" have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, say United Kingdom researchers.

A study from the University of Bristol compared data on hundreds of thousands of data to find that morning people have a 40-48% lower risk of breast cancer.

Interestingly, the study also found that sleeping longer isn't necessarily better, as the analysis showed that women who slept longer than the recommended seven to eight hours per night increased their chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer by 20% per additional hour.

Cancer risks associated with a person's body clock and sleep patterns have been reported in previous research and the United Kingdom researchers wanted to explore sleep traits in more detail, as well as any genetic factors underlying this.

"However, the findings of a protective effect of morning preference on breast cancer risk in our study are consistent with previous research highlighting a role for night shift work and exposure to "light-at-night" as risk factors for breast cancer". Experts said the study presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow added to a growing understanding of the importance of sleep in all health.

Women who love the early hours of the day are less likely to develop breast cancer, a new study suggests.

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"The method of Mendelian randomisation applied in this research is particularly useful at identifying causal risk factors for disease since the genetic variants identified in relation to the sleep traits are not likely to be influenced by any external or environmental factors, nor by the development of cancer, and can therefore be used to determine cause and effect relationships".

Because these bits of DNA are set at birth and are not linked to other known causes of cancer, like obesity, it means the researchers are reasonably confident body clocks are involved in cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, around a quarter of cases might be preventable.

"We know that sleep is important generally for health", said Richmond.

She tells the BBC: "We still need to get at what makes an evening person more at risk than a morning person... we need to unpick the relationship". "Another limitation is that sleep timing preference (chronotype) is self-reported, and the investigation did not specifically recruit individuals with different sleep patterns, such as night-shift workers", Burgess wrote in the comments of the study.

Would you like to get published on Standard Media websites? About 5 per cent of women with breast cancer have inherited a gene linked to the condition.

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