Early rising women at lower risk of breast cancer

Raelene Boyle and Judy Wild

Raelene Boyle and Judy Wild

Good news, morning larks - research shows that women who feel at their most awake in the hours before lunch are 40 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than late risers.

Research involving more than 400,000 women found "larks" have a breast cancer risk up to 48 per cent lower than "night owls".

Part of the analysis also showed that women who slept longer than the recommended seven to eight hours per night increased their chances of being diagnosed by 20 per cent per additional hour spent asleep.

"Our findings are based on questions related to morning or evening preference rather than actually whether people get up earlier or later in the day", said Rebecca Richmond, of the University of Bristol.

But the team point out that many factors are involved in a person developing breast cancer and that these numbers are not an absolute risk.

'However, the findings of a protective effect of morning preference on breast cancer risk in our study are consistent with previous research highlighting a role for night shift work and exposure to "light-at-night" as risk factors for breast cancer'.

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

Around one in seven women in the United Kingdom will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, and well-known risk factors include smoking, alcohol, age and family history.

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They also found some evidence for a causal effect of increased sleep duration and sleep fragmentation on breast cancer. "In such a scenario, sleep patterns may be associated with risk of breast cancer, but not directly cause it".

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 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. "We would like to use genetic data from large populations to further understand how disrupting the body's natural body clock can contribute to breast cancer risk", she said.

Being a morning person is partly down to genetics, so this lowered risk does make some sense.

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

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However, cancer experts say modifying your sleep patterns probably won't have a significant impact on your cancer risk.

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