Morning "Larks" Have Lower Risk of Getting Breast Cancer

Reham Afandi

Reham Afandi

Women who are considered morning people are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who have more energy in the evenings, according to researchers.

The researchers who compared data on hundreds of thousands of women found that those with an in-built morning preference were 40 per cent to 48 per cent less at risk of breast cancer.

In other words, it is at present unknown whether it is your genetic body clock itself, or living out of sync with it - for instance, forcing yourself to get up early for work if you are a lark - which affects your breast cancer risk.

This echoes previous studies which found night-shift workers and those exposed to more artificial light at night are at greater risk of cancer.

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The findings were presented at the 2018 NCRI (National Cancer Research Institute) conference in Glasgow. 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.

The Biobank samples did not find a link between sleep duration and breast cancer risk but they did confirm that larks have a lower risk of developing the disease.

Researchers looked at 341 pieces of DNA and used them for an experiment involving over 400,000 women.

They utilized a genetic method known as Mendelian randomization in which genetic variants associated with possible risk factors, such as sleep characteristics, were analyzed.

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She tells 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 that sleep is important generally for health", said Richmond.

"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 Cliona Clare Kirwan, from the University of Manchester, who who was not involved in this research. The Breast Cancer Walk, which centered at the Manhattanville College Campus and directed its way up to SUNY Purchase, totaled five kilometers. "Another limitation is that sleep timing preference (chronotype) is self-reported, and the investigation did not specifically recruit individuals with different sleep patterns, such as night-shift workers", Burgess wrote in the comments of the study.

"In terms of the implications of the research, it supports existing evidence that sleep patterns influence cancer risk, but it remains unclear how individual preferences for early or late rising interact with actual sleep behaviours", Moorthie wrote in an email.

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