'Morning people' at lower risk of breast cancer?

BIG DAY OUT Marilyn Rice and Jo Maundrell

BIG DAY OUT Marilyn Rice and Jo Maundrell. Robyn Hills

Researchers at University of Bristol found that women who are "morning people" are 40 to 48 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than women who are most active in the evening and go to sleep later - about one fewer case of breast cancer among every 100 morning larks as among the same number of night owls.

Interestingly, the study also found that sleeping longer isn't necessarily better, as the analysis showed that women who slept longer than the recommended seven to eight hours per night increased their chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer by 20% per additional hour.

Using genetic variants associated with people's preference for morning or evening, sleep duration and insomnia, they investigated whether these sleep traits have a causal contribution to the risk of developing breast cancer.

Dr Richmond said further research is required to "investigate the mechanism underlying the effects of different sleep characteristics on the risk of developing breast cancer". The team presented their findings at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, while their paper, published on bioRxiv, awaits peer review. And obesity is set to become the leading preventable cause of breast cancer for women in the United Kingdom, according to a report from earlier this year.

He noted they found a causal effect of increased sleep duration and sleep fragmentation on breast cancer from movement monitors worn by around 85,000 UK Biobank participants.

And those who are sharper in the evening may have had more disrupted sleep, which could affect the risk of cancer.

Out of the 400 000 women, 2,740 were breast cancer survivors and 149 064 were disease free. Dr Rebecca Richmond, a research fellow with the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol explained that it's more complicated than just setting your alarm to wake up earlier.

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That's according to European researchers looking at International Genetic Data.

So will a good night's sleep stop me getting cancer? She told 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".

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

"These are interesting findings that provide further evidence of how our body clock and our natural sleep preference is implicated in the onset of breast cancer".

Read: Sleep: Do you get enough?

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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