Monday, March 16, 2009

Night shifts spark cancer pay-out

Article on BBC website by Kenneth Macdonald on 16 March 2009

The Danish government has begun paying compensation to women who have developed breast cancer after long spells working nights. It follows a ruling by a United Nations agency that night shifts probably increase the risk of developing cancer.

There has been growing evidence that night shifts are bad for you for years. Symptoms include disturbed sleep, fatigue, digestive problems and a greater risk of accidents at work. Cancer is now being added because there is a 'probable' link.

Dr Vincent Cogliano of the IARC said they reached their conclusion after looking at a wide number of studies of both humans and animals.

He said there was evidence to support the hypothesis that alterations in sleep patterns could suppress the production of melatonin in the body.

"Melatonin has some beneficial effects in preventing some of the steps leading to cancer," he said.

"The level of evidence is really no different than it might be for an industrial chemical."

What is not clear from this article is how big a risk factor night work is compared to others.

Andy Brazier

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