Poor sleeping patterns have been linked to many health issues in the past. They have a negative impact on the body’s internal organs, affect one’s cognitive performance, and can easily lead to depression if they persist. But a new study has found that they may also aid in the development of breast cancer.
Experts say that irregular sleep patterns are “unequivocally” shown to favor the development of certain cancers. The tests were conducted on mice but because of their biological similarity to humans, the researchers believe that the conclusion is highly accurate.
The new finding brings into debate a previous concern relating to the negative impact that shift work has on people’s health. While the research team admitted that further tests need to be conducted on people, they urge women with a family history of breast cancer to always avoid working shifts.
One working theory is that when people disrupt the body’s internal rhythm (known as the body clock), they weaken the immune system and increase the risk of developing disease.
However, a counter argument is that the kind of people who work in shifts may not be developing cancer due to irregular sleep patterns, bur rather because of the lower social class that they’re likely a part of, as well as other factors such as activity levels and the quantity of vitamin D that they get.
On top of everything, the study results also showed that the mice with irregular sleeping patterns weighted about 20 percent (20%) more than the ones with regular sleeping patterns. But all of the mice received and ate the exact same food portions.
The team estimates that the human equivalent of the weight gain may be somewhere around 10kg (1st 8lb) of extra body weight. This could cause women who are at risk of developing breast cancer to start having to fight the disease five (5) years earlier than the average.
For their study, the researchers delayed the body clock of mice vulnerable to developing breast cancer by 12 hours. The process was repeated every week and the tests lasted for a whole year.
Most of the subjects normally started having tumors after 50 weeks. But if their sleep patterns were regularly disrupted, the tumors started eight (8) weeks earlier. The paper mentions that this is the first study of its kind and that it “unequivocally” shows that a link exists between “chronic light-dark inversions” and the development of breast cancer.
Gijsbetus van der Horst, study researcher and member of the Erasmus University Medical Centre (Netherlands), gave a statement saying that he would never advise people with a family history of breast cancer to work as flight attendants or do any king of shift work.
Dr. Michael Hastings, member of the united Kingdom’s Medical Research Council, gave a statement of his own saying that this study has given the definitive experimental proof in his expert opining, and has proven that body clock disruption can cause breast cancer to develop even faster than normal.
He went on to advice shift workers to pay attention to their body weight and pay attention to “inspecting breasts”. He also noted that employers should offer frequent in-work health checks.
Te study was published in the journal Current Biology. The findings are not to be taken lightly as previous studies conducted on people have also suggested that flight attendants and shift workers have a higher risk of developing diseases like breast cancer.
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