Night shifts have become an integral part of modern day life. There is no escaping this phenomenon for many people in todays globalized era. The graveyard shift has had its share of complaints over the years some of which include insomnia, gastrointestinal problems to even heart risks. Another symptom to join the list is cancer.
Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) “Night work is carcinogenic and it puts workers at risk. Recent studies have shown how night work increases the risk of getting breast cancer for women shift workers.“
Similarly a study by Danish Institute of Cancer Epidemiology has reported that women who had worked in careers such as flight attending, catering, and worked more than 60% at night for a minimum of six months had a 50 per cent greater chances of getting breast cancer.
One of the reasons why this theory has been gaining credence is that of light. Light acts as the primary stimulus to the disruption and resetting of our pineal gland which is located in the hypothalamus area of the brain. The pineal gland in turn controls melatonin production and is turned on at night, and is turned off by detectable light.
Melatonin is a hormone that is in charge of protecting us from the growth of tumors. It does this by increasing our immune response by reducing estrogen that in charge of producing cell growth in the breasts and by grabbing up free radicals (caused by the fat we eat- tumors love fatty acids).
So any light during the night which may be moonlight or tube light will shut down the gland. When there is darkness again the gland will continue production but the melatonin levels will not reach the peak levels of a normal sleep full night.
There are some available methods through which one could reduce the risks of cancer. Working continuously in night shifts will make the body adapt to produce melatonin during the day, it is not very practical although. The risk can also be reduced by having a vegetable rich diet that is low in saturated fat and also that involves from smoking.