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Breast Cancer News: Risk Increases in Women Who Work Long Night Shifts, Study Suggests

Jul 03, 2013 10:17 AM EDT by Rebecca Strassberg

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A new study has shown that women who work night shifts for more than 30 years, might have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal, Medical News Daily reported. Researchers questioned women about their careers and work patterns. 1,134 of the women had breast cancer, and 1,179 of them did not.

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The women were all the same age. About 1 in 3 of them in both groups had worked night shifts. The research shows that women who worked night shifts for up to 29 years did not have an increased risk, where as women who worked night shits for over 30 years, were twice as likely to develop the cancer.

The Evening Telegraph reported that though these findings are consistent with results from similar studies, experts say that the increased risk isn't exactly confirmed.

Dr Jane Green, clinical epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, said, "The finding of an increased risk of breast cancer in women with a long history of shift work adds to similar results from some previous studies, but does not change the existing consensus: that while there is some evidence to associate increased risk of breast cancer with very long term shift work, the evidence is not yet sufficient to be sure and certainly not sufficient to give a public health message about working shifts."

Dr Hannah Bridges, senior information officer at the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer agreed, and said that we still need to better understand what about these shifts may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Bridges suggested that late night shifts might just lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits, any of which could increase the risk.

Experts said that the information is not yet enough to give a public health message about work shifts, but it should be a reminder to maintain a healthy lifestyle and take part in regular physical activity.

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