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Early risers' reduced risk of breast cancer

Tuesday November 6th, 2018

Women who are early risers enjoy a reduced risk of developing breast cancer, according to new research that’s to be presented today (6 November 2018).

Dr Rebecca Richmond, a research fellow in the Cancer Research UK Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme and the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, UK, will reveal the findings of the study at the 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference, Glasgow.

It follows a study that examined data from 180,215 women enrolled with the UK Biobank project, and 228,951 women who had been part of the international Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC) genome-wide association study of breast cancer.

The researchers used Mendelian randomisation to investigate if sleep traits, sleep duration and insomnia are involved in causing diseases such as breast cancer.

The analysis, which included data from BCAC of 122,977 cases of breast cancer and 105,974 women without the disease, found that a preference for a full morning reduced the risk of breast cancer by 40% compared with late-risers.

It also found that women who slept longer than the recommended seven to eight hours had a 20% increased risk of the disease per additional hour slept.

Analysis of data obtained from the UK Biobank women, which included 2,740 new cases of breast cancer and 149,064 controls, found similar results, with early-risers having a 48% reduced risk of breast cancer.

The study found less evidence associating the risk of breast cancer with either insomnia or sleep duration.

Dr Richmond said: “We would like to do further work to investigate the mechanisms underpinning these results, as the estimates obtained are based on questions related to morning or evening preference rather than actually whether people get up earlier or later in the day. 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.

“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.”

The researchers believe their findings have implications for policy-makers and employers. Dr Richmond added: “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.”

Delegates will also hear today about confusion among health professionals about e-cigarettes.

Researchers at Oxford Brookes University, England, surveyed 506 health professionals from across the UK, and found that more than half said they did not know enough about e-cigarettes to make recommendations to cancer patients who already smoke.

A quarter did not know whether e-cigarettes were less harmful than smoking and 29% said they would not recommend e-cigarettes to cancer patients who smoke.

Dr Jo Brett, a senior research fellow in the faculty of health and life sciences at Oxford Brookes University, UK. Dr Brett added: “These results suggest that there’s a lack of clear policy on e-cigarettes at the local level. They also suggest a lack of awareness of existing evidence and national policy on e-cigarettes among doctors and nurses. This is coupled with a lack of time and inadequate training on smoking cessation in general, and specifically on e-cigarettes.”

Tags: Cancer | Fitness | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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