Morning "Larks" Have Lower Risk of Getting Breast Cancer

Breast cancer awareness

Women who are "morning people" are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who function better at night, a new study suggests. What's more, every additional hour slept after the recommended eight-hour sleep was associated with a 20 percent increase in risk.

But the team point out that many factors are involved in a person developing breast cancer and that these numbers are not an absolute risk.

"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", she said.

Their findings were presented at the 2018 National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference in Glasgow.

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.

"These intriguing results add to the growing body of evidence that there is some overlap between the genetics of when we'd prefer to sleep and our breast cancer risk, but more research is required to unravel the specifics of this relationship", he said. "More work is needed to understand why sleep characteristics may be linked to breast cancer risk", said Breast Cancer Care clinical director Emma Pennery.

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The researchers believe their findings have implications for policy-makers and employers. She passionately expressed that the walk assists in recognizing that "we need a cure for this and we need women to be more diligent about checking themselves and going for mammograms".

Richmond stressed that the 48% lower risk was identified among "extreme" cases, where people identified themselves as "definite" morning people out of the five categories they could chose from - definite morning, more morning than evening, neither, more evening than morning, definite evening. Researchers then mapped the genetic variations between the earlier risers and the night owls and compared it with that to the risk of developing cancer.

"The authors do not show any biological mechanism by which sleep timing preference could influence breast cancer risk".

Dan Damon has been speaking to one of the researchers, Professor Richard Martin - an expert in cancer epidemiology from the University of Bristol.

"We know that sleep is important generally for health", said Richmond. "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. "This study provides further evidence to suggest disrupted sleep patterns may have a role in cancer development", Kirwan said in a meeting news release.

About the NCRI Cancer ConferenceThe NCRI Cancer Conference is the UK's largest forum showcasing the latest advances in cancer research.

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