Shift Work May Lower Risk of Skin Cancer

Night shift decreases risk of skin cancers, especially melanoma

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) While shift work has been linked to several cancers by desynchronizing the circadian rhythm (the body's internal alarm clock), it may actually reduce skin cancer risk in women.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) looked at 10,799 incidents of skin cancer in 68,336 women in the Nurses’ Health Study over 18 years of follow-up. They found that higher duration of working night shifts resulted in significantly decreased risk of all skin cancers, especially melanoma, the deadliest variant. Darker haired women in the study presented the lowest risk.

The study showed that working 10 or more years of rotating night-shifts resulted in a 44 percent decrease in melanoma.

Eva Schernhammer, MD, DrPh, a researcher in the Channing Laboratory at BWH and lead author of the study, said higher levels of melatonin (the hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm) appear to be beneficial to those with stable circadian rhythms, but melatonin suppression may actually be more beneficial for certain diseases.

Shift work, however, has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, non-Hodgkins' lymphoma and other cancers as well as chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.

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Review Date: 
March 3, 2011
Last Updated:
March 4, 2011