Early riser have lower breast cancer risk

BIG DAY OUT Marilyn Rice and Jo Maundrell

New research suggests women who tend to be "night owls" are at greater risk for breast cancer.

Using a genetic method known as Mendelian randomization, researchers found that women who prefer mornings have a 40 to 48 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer.

Researchers also found that sleeping beyond the recommended seven to eight hours was linked to a 20 per cent increased risk of the disease per additional hour slept.

Led by Dr Rebecca Richmond at the University of Bristol, UK, along with the University of Manchester, the University of Exeter, and U.S. and Norwegian researchers, the large-scale study looked at data from taken from 409,166 women to investigate how a person's preference for mornings or evenings as well as their sleep habits may contribute to the development of breast cancer.

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

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

"We also found some evidence for a causal effect of increased sleep duration and sleep fragmentation on breast cancer", she added.

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They looked at 341 snippets of DNA (the instructions for the human body) that control whether we are likely to be a lark or an owl. "But what we do know is maintaining a healthy weight, taking exercise and drinking a sensible amount of alcohol, all help to reduce the risk", Pennery, who was not involved in the study, said.

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

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". Men and women of all ages are encouraged to check themselves for breast cancer as it can affect anyone.

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

The World Health Organization and its global partners have therefore dedicated October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month; a worldwide annual campaign involving thousands of organisations, to highlight the importance of breast cancer awareness, diagnosis and research. "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.

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

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