Study sheds light on night work−cancer link

A new study has offered insights into the association between night shift work and increased cancer risk, as well as pointing towards a potential solution.

For several years, scientists have thought that disruption to the body’s natural circadian rhythm is accountable for the increased cancer risk, but the mechanisms behind this have not yet been pinpointed.

Now, US researchers have published findings that suggest night shift work reduces the body’s ability to repair damaged DNA, thereby increasing the risk of mutations developing.

As reported in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, the study tested the urine of 50 night shift workers for the chemical 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OH-dG) – a substance that reacts with DNA to cause mutation, unless the DNA is repaired. The participants were then tested again when they were working days.

“Your repair machinery cuts out that damage and it’s actually excreted in urine so we can measure the repaired damage in urine,” explains lead author Parveen Bhatti (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle). People with higher versus lower levels of 8-OH-dG in the urine may be benefiting more from their body’s DNA repair mechanisms.

The researchers found that when people work nights, 80% less 8-OH-dG is excreted in the urine, suggesting that the crucial DNA repair is not being carried out as it should be.

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Source: News Medical

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