Early rising women at lower risk of breast cancer

08 Novembre, 2018, 03:58 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Raelene Boyle and Judy Wild

A University of Bristol study has found a link between early risers and a lower risk of breast cancer.

Everybody has a body clock, which governs how the body works in a roughly 24-hour pattern.

Each of us has a circadian rhythm that is unique to us. Among morning larks, that figure was roughly one in 100.

"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.

She tells the BBC: "We still need to get at what makes an evening person more at risk than a morning person... we need to unpick the relationship".

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Researchers at the University of Bristol analyzed data from 180,215 women enrolled with the U.K. Biobank project, and 228,951 women who participated in genome-wide association study of breast cancer led by the global Breast Cancer Association Consortium.

The study highlighted individuals who were genetically predisposed to be either "larks" or "owls".

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How big is the effect?

Women have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer and there are about 11,500 deaths from the disease annually in Britain. These genetic markers can show everything from "chronotype" (what times a person is most active) to risk of insomnia and the amount of sleep needed. According to Cancer Research UK, around a quarter of cases might be preventable. "Another limitation is that sleep timing preference (chronotype) is self-reported, and the investigation did not specifically recruit individuals with different sleep patterns, such as night-shift workers", Burgess wrote in the comments of the study. About 5 per cent of women with breast cancer have inherited a gene linked to the condition.

Is it something about the body clock itself?

Science is never 100% sure, but this fits with an emerging picture.

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

Dr Rebecca Richmond, from Bristol, said: 'We would like to do further work to investigate the mechanisms underpinning these results, as the estimates obtained are based on questions related to morning or evening preference rather than actually whether people get up earlier or later in the day.

There are theories around the causes of sleep's effect on cancer, she said, such as the idea that artificial light at night leads to hormonal disruption.

The findings have been published on researchers' website bioRxiv but have not yet gone through scientific peer review.

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