Early risers less likely to develop breast cancer, study finds

Raelene Boyle and Judy Wild

Researchers at the University of Bristol found that a preference for mornings reduced the risk of breast cancer by 40 to 48 percent compared with being an evening type (an "owl").

The research, which is being presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow, also found that breast cancer risk increased by 20 per cent for every hour a women slept beyond the recommended amount of 7 to 8 hours a night.

Dr Rebecca Richmond, from Bristol, said: 'We would like to do further work to investigate the mechanisms underpinning these results, as the estimates obtained are based on questions related to morning or evening preference rather than actually whether people get up earlier or later in the day.

'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.

Dr. Sowmiya Moorthie, senior policy analyst in epidemiology at PHG Foundation, who was not involved in the research, added that the study's major strength is the use of "multiple approaches to examine the links between sleep traits and breast cancer, which allows the researchers to demonstrate consistency in their findings".

Women have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer and there are about 11,500 deaths from the disease annually in Britain.

The team concluded that the study shows consistent evidence for a protective effect of morning preference, and suggestive evidence for an adverse effect of sleep duration on breast cancer risk.

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"What we can be certain of is that all women - larks and owls - can reduce their risk of breast cancer by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing their alcohol intake".

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

She tells the BBC: "We still need to get at what makes an evening person more at risk than a morning person... we need to unpick the relationship".

"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.

"Previous research has looked at the impact of shift work, but this is showing there may be a risk factor for all women". The World Health Organization already says disruption to people's body clocks because of shift work is probably linked to cancer risk.

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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