The graveyard shift and risks of breast cancer

Listen

If you're just getting off the night shift, should you be heading to the doctor's office? A new study out of Denmark adds to the body of work that suggests that women who work night shifts may have an increased risk of breast cancer. We explore the perils of disrupting circadian rhythms.


Part Three of The Current

The graveyard shift and risks of breast cancer - Johnni Hansen

They're called graveyard shifts for good reason. Anyone who's worked a night shift knows how deadly they are to social lives, sleep habits and happy states of mind. And they may really be deadly.

A new study in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine studied women in Denmark's military and found that those who worked a lot of night shifts ran a substantially increased risk of breast cancer.

Johnni Hansen is a senior epidemiologist with the Danish Cancer Society. He's the lead author of that paper. We reached Johnni Hansen in Oslo.

The graveyard shift and risks of breast cancer - Diane Boivin

The Health and Safety Executive in the UK commissioned further research into the possible links between night shifts and breast cancer. The World Health Organization declared five years ago that it was "probably" carcinogenic to work shifts that disrupted circadian rhythms.

And here in Canada, it's on the radar of organized labour. The Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ottawa represents a range of people who do night shifts, from health care workers to people who work in water treatment plants. And Anthony Pizzino is the National Director of Research and Occupational Health and Safety with CUPE. We heard from him.

Well, circadian rhythms are at the heart of the research into the health impacts of nights shifts. Those mysterious rhythms and the role they play in governing our health is the focus of Diane Boivin's work. She's the Director of the Centre for Study and Treatment of Circadian Rhythms at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute. That's at McGill University. And we reached Diane Boivin at her home in Montreal.

This segment was produced by The Current's Chris Wodskou.

Last Word - Bieber Fever

We've been talking about the potential hazards of the night shift. But of course there are worse hazards out there. In fact, a new and extremely infectious disease has just been diagnosed. It's perhaps one of the most infectious diseases ever known. And it's Canadian. For today's Last Word, a warning: if you get the fever, there is no cure, you just have to wait it out... and perhaps even Die in Your Arms.

Other segments from today's show: