Morning people have a lower risk of breast cancer

Florence Lopez
November 9, 2018

Women whose body clocks mean they are "morning people" have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, say United Kingdom researchers.

The scientists found that those with an in-built morning preference were 40% to 48% less at risk of breast cancer.

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.

Led by Dr Rebecca Richmond at the University of Bristol, UK, along with the University of Manchester, the University of Exeter, and USA and Norwegian researchers, the large-scale study looked at data from taken from 409,166 women to investigate how a person's preference for mornings or evenings as well as their sleep habits may contribute to the development of breast cancer.

"In other words, it may not be the case that changing your habits changes your risk of breast cancer; it may be more complex than that", she noted.

The research team, who presented their findings at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Glasgow, analysed women's genes and asked them whether they were a morning or an evening person.

"Larks" tend to go to bed and wake up early, and feel most productive earlier in the morning, while "night owls" feel drowsy in the morning and have the most energy later, making it harder for them to wake up early.

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".

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Researchers also looked at results from nearly 229,000 women signed up to an global genetic study carried out by the Breast Cancer Association Consortium.

That's according to European researchers looking at International Genetic Data. "These findings have potential policy implications for influencing sleep habits of the general population in order to improve health and reduce risk of breast cancer among women".

Out of the 400 000 women, 2,740 were breast cancer survivors and 149 064 were disease free.

"We know already that night shift work is associated with worse mental and physical health.

In such a scenario, sleep patterns may be associated with risk of breast cancer, but not directly cause it".

Because these bits of DNA are set at birth and are not linked to other known causes of cancer, like obesity, it means the researchers are reasonably confident body clocks are involved in cancer.

Age and family history are some of the main risk factors for breast cancer.

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