Every year, in the US, approximately 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Of these 22,000, around 15,000 will die from it. A new study is showing that perhaps night shift work may increase the risk for women to develop this cancer due to the high levels of estrogen that can occur while working at night.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle conducted a study that followed 3,322 women, 1,101 had the most common advanced ovarian cancer, and 389 had borderline ovarian cancer. The rest were a part of a healthy group. One quarter to one third of the women in the groups had worked the night shift for an average of 2.7 to 3.5 years out of their lives.
The researchers found that night shift work had an impact on the production of melatonin, which keeps hormones balanced at night. Since the women who were working the night shift were sleeping like they were supposed to be, and were exposed to artificial light more than sunlight, they were not producing the melatonin that was usually made, increasing the amount of estrogen in their system. These higher levels of estrogen have been linked to ovarian cancer, hence the night shift workers having a higher risk.
Unfortunately for those who must work the night shift, it is also a high risk factor for other diseases such as diabetes, breast cancer, and multiple sclerosis. This is most likely due to the fact that people who work the night shift have odd schedules and often do not get the amount of sleep they need. Doctors recommend that you do everything you can to improve the quality of your sleep if you can’t increase the hours.