Breast Cancer and Night work
Melatonin, sleep disturbance and cancer risk.
Laboratory of Chrono-Neuroendocrine Oncology, Department of Structural and Cellular Biology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA. email@example.com
The pineal hormone melatonin is involved in the circadian regulation and facilitation of sleep, the inhibition of cancer development and growth, and the enhancement of immune function. Individuals, such as night shift workers, who are exposed to light at night on a regular basis experience biological rhythm (i.e., circadian) disruption including circadian phase shifts, nocturnal melatonin suppression, and sleep disturbances. Additionally, these individuals are not only immune suppressed, but they are also at an increased risk of developing a number of different types of cancer. There is a reciprocal interaction and regulation between sleep and the immune system quite independent of melatonin. Sleep disturbances can lead to immune suppression and a shift to the predominance in cancer-stimulatory cytokines. Some studies suggest that a shortened duration of nocturnal sleep is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer development. The relative individual contributions of sleep disturbance, circadian disruption due to light at night exposure, and related impairments of melatonin production and immune function to the initiation and promotion of cancer in high-risk individuals such as night shift workers are unknown. The mutual reinforcement of interacting circadian rhythms of melatonin production, the sleep/wake cycle and immune function may indicate a new role for undisturbed, high quality sleep, and perhaps even more importantly, uninterrupted darkness, as a previously unappreciated endogenous mechanism of cancer prevention.
Work at night and breast cancer – report on evidence-based options for preventive actions.
Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Bispebjerg University Hospital, Bispebjerg Bakke 23, DK-2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark. firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified shift work involving circadian disruption as probably carcinogenic to humans (group 2A), primarily based on experimental and epidemiologic evidence for breast cancer. In order to examine options for evidence-based preventive actions, 16 researchers in basic, epidemiological and applied sciences convened at a workshop in Copenhagen 26-27 October 2011. This paper summarizes the evidence from epidemiological and experimental studies and presents possible recommendations for prevention of the effects of night work on breast cancer. Among those studies that quantified duration of shift work, there were statistically significant elevations in risk only after about 20 years working night shift. It is unclear from these studies whether or not there is a modest but real elevated risk for shorter durations. Hence, restriction of the total number of years working night shift could be one future preventive recommendation for shift workers. The diurnal secretion of melatonin by the pineal gland with peak in secretory activity during the night is a good biochemical marker of the circadian rhythm. Disruption of the diurnal melatonin secretion pattern can be diminished by restricting the number of consecutive night shifts. Reddish light and reduced light intensity during work at night could potentially help diminish the inhibitory activity of light with strong intensity on the melatonin secretion, but further mechanistic insight is needed before definite recommendations can be made. Earlier or more intensive mammography screening among female night shift worker is not recommended because the harm-benefit ratio in this age group may not be beneficial. Preventive effects of melatonin supplementation on breast cancer risk have not been clearly documented, but may be a promising avenue if a lack of side effects can be shown even after long-term ingestion. Women with previous or current breast cancer should be advised not to work night shifts because of strong experimental evidence demonstrating accelerated tumor growth by suppression of melatonin secretion. Work during the night is widespread worldwide. To provide additional evidence-based recommendations on prevention of diseases related to night shift work, large studies on the impact of various shift schedules and type of light on circadian rhythms need to be conducted in real work environments.