Morning people less likely to develop breast cancer

Raelene Boyle and Judy Wild

Raelene Boyle and Judy Wild

Women who are "larks" and at their best early in the morning are less likely to develop breast cancer than their night-owl sisters, a study has found.

They say women who tend to be "morning people" have about a 40 percent lower risk of breast cancer. What's more, every additional hour slept after the recommended eight-hour sleep was associated with a 20 percent increase in risk.

Lead scientist Dr Rebecca Richmond, of the University of Bristol, said researchers used genetic variants associated with people's preference for morning or evening, sleep duration and insomnia before investigating whether they contributed to breast cancer developing.

"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 was presented at the 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference.

Around one in seven women in the United Kingdom will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

University of Manchester's Cliona Clare Kirwan, a member of the NCRI Breast Clinical Studies Group, did not take part in the research but said it provided "further evidence of how our body clock and our natural sleep preference is implicated in the onset of breast cancer".

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And those who are sharper in the evening may have had more disrupted sleep, which could affect the risk of cancer.

The researchers believe their findings have implications for policy-makers and employers.

But if you are a morning person, feel free to give yourself yet another pat on the back.

The team speculated that this mismatch may have its own impact on cancer risk, but making that connection will require more extensive research. The Breast Cancer Walk, which centered at the Manhattanville College Campus and directed its way up to SUNY Purchase, totaled five kilometers.

The study was funded by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council. 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. "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. "I wouldn't support that women should get up earlier to reduce risk of breast cancer".

Dipender Gill, of Imperial College London, said: "Although informative and interesting, this study alone does not warrant any action other than further investigation - people should not be changing their sleep patterns based on the evidence presented here".

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