Rotating Night Shift Nurses May Be At An Increased Risk for Breast Cancer

Nurses who work rotating night shifts may be at a higher risk for breast cancer, according to a systematic review.

“People doing night shift work are currently increasing around the world, especially in industrialized countries. This is because more and more regions of the world are adopting the 24-h-a-day model of society, both at home and at work, exposing the population, and especially the female collective, to more hours of artificial light,” the study authors explained. “This is clearly seen in a profession such as nursing, where nurses base their work organization on shifts in order to ensure the highest quality of care through continuity of care for patients 24 h a day.”

They searched the Cochrane Plus Library, PubMed, CINAHL, Web of Science, ScienceDirect, and Dialnet databases for articles published in English or Spanish between 2010 and 2020. Studies that discussed the correlation between breast cancer diagnosed among nursing professionals and rotating night shifts were eligible for inclusion.

Final analysis included 12 studies, most of which observed that breast cancer risk was correlated with consecutive rotating night shifts prolonged over time.

“Among the associated factors, the alteration of the circadian rhythm influenced the expression of peripheral clock genes, which was the same as reproductive hormones,” the researchers further clarified. The risk was greater during early adulthood as well as after at least five years with six or more consecutive nights, they added.

The study was published in Medicina.

“Today’s world has an increasing and faster trend towards the so-called ‘24-h societies’. To this we must add the need for continuous and necessary care that patients require, so it would be beneficial to apply preventive measures that minimize or avoid as much as possible these alterations in order to reduce the incidence of breast cancer among nurses,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.