New Research Finds Night Shift Increases Risk of Cancer

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Night owls and night shift workers beware. New research suggests not sleeping during standard bedtime hours could eventually lead to cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer is expected to add night work to the list of probable carcinogens later this month.

"The concern about the connection between the graveyard shift of work and cancer is that it's not necessarily a cause of cancer but a potential increased risk for cancer," Researcher David Earnest with the Texas A&M Health Science Center said.

Earnest has been researching the link between one's circadian rhythm and cancer for years. He says it's not the graveyard shift that is the problem but constantly changing schedules.

"They will work the night shift for a couple of weeks or so on and then go to the first shift, second shift and so on, and that's really where the problems is," Earnest said.

Earnest says weekends and days off can also mess with the body's biological clock, because many working the graveyard shift revert back to normal wake-sleep cycles.

But night shift workers such as firefighters, doctors, and nurses may not be the only ones at risk.

"College Students really don't have what I call normal circadian rhythms and normal sleep cycles," Earnest said. "In fact this may also be a factor for them as well. "

With more research, Earnest believes they may be able to find ways to manipulate circadian rhythms to minimize those risk factors.