Early risers are less likely to develop breast cancer, claims new study

Modesto Morganelli
Novembre 8, 2018

Women who are "larks" and at their best early in the morning are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who are night owls, according to a new study.

Experts not involved in the research welcomed the findings - although they cautioned that it was too early to change any behaviour until more research can be conducted.

"Using genetic variants associated with people's preference for morning or evening, sleep duration and insomnia, which had previously been identified by three recent UK Biobank genome-wide association studies, we investigated whether these sleep traits have a causal contribution to the risk of developing breast cancer", Dr. Rebecca Richmond, a research fellow at Cancer Research U.K. and the University of Bristol, said in a press release.

Results from 228,951 women enrolled in an worldwide genetic study conducted by the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC) were also included in the analysis.

They showed people genetically programmed to be "larks" were less likely to have breast cancer than those programmed to be owls. Around 4% of United States cancer deaths were linked to drinking alcohol and the Breast Cancer Now charity warns that any alcohol intake increases the risk of breast cancer.

"More work is needed to understand why sleep characteristics may be linked to breast cancer risk".

"We also found some evidence for a causal effect of increased sleep duration and sleep fragmentation on breast cancer, assessed using objective measurements of sleep obtained from movement monitors worn by around 85,000 UK Biobank participants".

"What we can be certain of is that all women - larks and owls - can reduce their risk of breast cancer by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing their alcohol intake".

She said policy-makers and employers should take note of the research.

Dr Emma Pennery, of the Breast Cancer Care charity, said: 'Changing your sleeping habits is not as easily done as other proven risk-reducing choices, as they're often part and parcel with jobs, parenting or other health conditions'. 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 team presented their findings at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, while their paper, published on bioRxiv, awaits peer review.

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

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