You’re aware that your job could cause stress, which you know could, in turn, raise your risk for high blood pressure, anxiety, and exhaustion. But did you know that your job could be upping your chances of developing cancer?
A recent Japanese study looked to see if there was a connection between a person’s work schedule and cancer — prostate cancer, to be specific. The data for the study was taken from the 1988 to 1990 Japan Collaborative Cohort Study, which surveyed lifestyle issues among the population.
In this recent study, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers examined data for 14,052 men who were working at the time of the study. Of these individuals, 11,269 (80.2%) worked a day shift and 1,801 (12.85%) worked rotating shifts — meaning that their hours alternated between day and night — and 982 (seven percent) of them were on the night shift.
Over a follow-up period of eight years, 31 of the men in the study developed prostate cancer. After adjusting for age and other risk factors, the researchers found that the rotating-shift workers had three times the risk of this type of cancer. The people on the night shift experienced an extremely small increase in risk.
According to researchers, it’s possible that the hormone “melatonin” could have a role in the onset of prostate cancer in shift workers. Melatonin is produced by the “pineal gland.” The hormone is crucial in regulating your body’s sleep schedule, basically helping you sleep properly. However, levels of melatonin are affected by light and dark, which means that changing up your sleeping patterns, as rotating-shift workers do, could totally throw off the production of this essential hormone.
This switch-up means that a multitude of functions in the body are disrupted — it also means that levels of melatonin (which has been proven in animal studies to be an antioxidant) are low. More research needs to be done on this hormone in order to figure out exactly how prostate cancer and shift work/sleeping patterns are related.
If your job involves rotating shift work, you’re not necessarily doomed to suffer from prostate cancer. However, it’s better to be safe — so talk to your doctor about these findings. If he/she deems it necessary and safe for your particular case, there are supplements and drugs that could help balance out the melatonin levels in your body.