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

Breast cancer awareness

Women who are naturally early risers were found to have lower risk of developing breast cancer than evening types in a new study.

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.

Those who took part in the study included more than 180,000 women in the UK Biobank project, which holds medical research data on 500,000 people.

"What we would like to look at next is the interplay between our innate preference, to being a morning person or an evening person, and our actual behavior", lead researcher Dr. Rebecca Richmond told British newspaper The Independent.

The morning people had a reduced risk of more than 40%, compared to the night owls.

However Dr Richard Berks, senior research communications officer at the charity Breast Cancer Now, said it's too early to make any recommendations to women about their sleeping patterns based on this research.

"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.

However, Dr Richmond pointed out that the possible protective effect of being a morning person on breast cancer risk was in keeping with previous research showing that working night shifts and "light-at-night" exposure increased the risk of breast cancer.

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"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", said breast surgeon Cliona Kirwan.

"For example, the genetic determinants of sleep may also affect other neuronal mechanisms that affect breast cancer risk independently of sleep patterns".

The researchers believe their findings have implications for policy-makers and employers. She was not involved in this research.

The study used a genetic method known as Mendelian randomization.

The results were presented at the 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow.

"We know already that night shift work is associated with worse mental and physical health". About 5 per cent of women with breast cancer have inherited a gene linked to the condition. "This helps to avoid misleading conclusions that could have been affected by confounding factors".

The Chief Executive Officer, AXA Mansard Health Limited, Mr Tope Adeniyi, said, "There is still no sure way to prevent breast cancer yet".

The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership of cancer research funders, established in 2001.

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