Early risers have lower risk of breast cancer, study says

Raelene Boyle and Judy Wild

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

This new study reveals another benefit to being a morning person - lower breast cancer risk. The research also suggested that for women who slept longer than the recommended seven to eight hours per night, the risk of being diagnosed increased by 20 per cent per additional hour slept.

"The team used a method called "'Mendelian randomization", which uses genetic variants linked to potential risk factors (in this case, circadian rhythm) to determine whether or not there is a causal relationship between the risk factor and a particular disease (in this case, breast cancer).

"However, the findings of a protective effect of morning preference on breast cancer risk in our study are consistent with previous research...", Richmond noted.

As reported by Sarah Knapton from the Telegraph, the research was funded by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council and presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow on 5 November.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among cwomen, impacting 2.1 million women each year and causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths.

He noted they found a causal effect of increased sleep duration and sleep fragmentation on breast cancer from movement monitors worn by around 85,000 UK Biobank participants.

"The authors do not show any biological mechanism by which sleep timing preference could influence breast cancer risk".


Researchers looked at the DNA from a total of 410,000 women, based on whether they were lark or owl types. 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.

Researchers from the University of Bristol have analysed the link between sleeping patterns and breast cancer in women. "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. Does the body clock affect hormone levels to alter cancer risk, or the immune system, or metabolism?

Those that were found to have the genes of a morning person had a lower chance of getting breast cancer.

"We know that sleep is important generally for health", said Richmond.

"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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About the NCRI Cancer ConferenceThe NCRI Cancer Conference is the UK's largest forum showcasing the latest advances in cancer research.

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