New UK research presented at the 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference suggests that women who are "larks", performing better at the beginning of the day rather than the end of the day, may have a lower risk of breast cancer.
Researchers from the University of Bristol compared data on more than 400,000 women and found those who classed themselves as "morning people" were 40 - 48 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than others.
It also found that women who slept longer than seven to eight hours a night had a 20 percent increased risk of the disease per additional hour slept.
"More work is needed to understand why sleep characteristics may be linked to breast cancer risk".
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However, Dr Richmond pointed out that the possible protective effect of being a morning person on breast cancer risk was in keeping with previous research showing that working night shifts and "light-at-night" exposure increased the risk of breast cancer.
Dr. Sowmiya Moorthie, senior policy analyst in epidemiology at PHG Foundation, who was not involved in the research, added that the study's major strength is the use of "multiple approaches to examine the links between sleep traits and breast cancer, which allows the researchers to demonstrate consistency in their findings".
Cliona Clare Kirwan, from the University of Manchester, a member of the NCRI Breast Clinical Studies Group who did not take part in the research, said: "These are interesting findings that provide further evidence of how our body clock and our natural sleep preference is implicated in the onset of breast cancer". Dr Richmond said: "These findings have potential policy implications for influencing sleep habits of the general population in order to improve health and reduce the risk of breast cancer among women". She passionately expressed that the walk assists in recognizing that "we need a cure for this and we need women to be more diligent about checking themselves and going for mammograms".
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"We know that sleep is important generally for health", said Richmond. 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 findings have been published on researchers' website bioRxiv but have not yet gone through scientific peer review.
Those that were found to have the genes of a morning person had a lower chance of getting breast cancer. This study provides further evidence to suggest disrupted sleep patterns may have a role in cancer development.
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