The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and published on Wednesday, suggests that women who do night shift work are at greater risk of developing breast cancer than the general population.
More worrying for frequent long distance travelers, the study suggests that jet lag may make tumors grow faster. On his part, first author Yool Lee, a research associate in the Sehgal Lab disclosed that: “Our findings strongly indicate that environmental or physiological disturbances of circadian rhythms such as shift work, abnormal sleep timing, or irregular psycho-sociological stresses can affect variability in both cancer growth and response to cancer drugs.”
“Given this, it is reasonable to expect that resetting of the body clock by scheduled light-exposure, meal-times, or exercise, alongside a carefully timed chemotherapy regimen, would improve anti-tumor treatment. Taken together, our study identifies the mechanisms behind tumor growth following circadian disturbances, and highlights the importance of judicious application of cancer chronotherapy.”
While it is widely reported that chronic disruptions of circadian rhythms, or internal body clocks, can lead to an increased risk of cancer, the underlying mechanisms by which the disturbances promote tumor growth had been largely unknown – a factor that has now been laid to rest by this latest research.