Women who wake up early "at lower risk of developing breast cancer"

Desiree Burns
November 8, 2018

Morning people who peak in the early hours of the day are less at risk of breast cancer compared to their "evening" counterparts, a study has found.

The researchers who compared data on hundreds of thousands of women found that those with an in-built morning preference were 40 per cent to 48 per cent less at risk of breast cancer.

The data also showed that women who slept longer than the recommended seven to eight hours a night had a 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer for each additional hour slept.

"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 said.

Results from 228,951 women enrolled in an global genetic study conducted by the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC) were also included in the analysis.

NCRI Partners are: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); Bloodwise; Brain Tumour Research; Breast Cancer Now; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health and Social Care; Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie; Medical Research Council (MRC); Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Public Health Agency (Research & Development Department); Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund; Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus Cancer Care; The Wellcome Trust and Welsh Assembly Government (Health and Care Research Wales).

"These intriguing results add to the growing body of evidence that there is some overlap between the genetics of when we'd prefer to sleep and our breast cancer risk, but more research is required to unravel the specifics of this relationship", he said.

But, if your body clock is determined by your DNA, is there anything natural "larks" can do to lower their breast cancer risk?

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Careem, one of the region's leading technology organizations, launched a breast cancer awareness campaign in partnership with the Qatar Cancer Society last October.

The team speculated that this mismatch may have its own impact on cancer risk, but making that connection will require more extensive research.

Dan Damon has been speaking to one of the researchers, Professor Richard Martin - an expert in cancer epidemiology from the University of Bristol.

"The statistical method used in this study, called Mendelian randomization, does not always allow causality to be inferred", said Dipender Gill, clinical research training fellow at Imperial College London.

So will a good night's sleep stop me getting cancer?

"We know that sleep is important generally for health", said Richmond. About 5 per cent of women with breast cancer have inherited a gene linked to the condition.

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"In terms of the implications of the research, it supports existing evidence that sleep patterns influence cancer risk, but it remains unclear how individual preferences for early or late rising interact with actual sleep behaviours", Moorthie wrote in an email.

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