Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Do striplights cause cancer? Or, maybe it's night working...

'Hundreds of thousands of female nightshift workers in the UK could be at greater risk of developing breast cancer, it emerged yesterday,' declares the Herald (Glasgow) newspaper today. However, the researcher behind the report is much more equivocal about any relationship. The paper quotes Professor Anthony Swerdlow, an epidemiologist with the Institute of Cancer Research:

'You have to ask two questions: if more women who work shifts get breast cancer and, if that is the case, is it because of the shift work or something else, such as exercise patterns being different, among these women. There is some evidence breasts cancer and shift work may be linked, but at the moment it is not persuasive enough to be convincing. That is why more detailed research needs to be carried out. There is no doubt exposure to artificial light decreases the level of melatonin. But whether melatonin acts as a guard against breast cancer, and so a reduction increases the risk of the disease, is not so certain. There are other issues at stake regarding shift workers. Having children is known to protect against breast cancer, and shift workers tend to have fewer children because of the nature of the job. The issue is very complex.'

Nightshift working linked to breast cancer, Herald, 16 July 2003


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