Virginia Tech Researchers Study Sleep Cycles & Cancer

Dec 3, 2014

Credit Photo: Matthew Faltz, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There’s more proof that working night shifts can be harmful to your health.  A new study identifies a molecule that affects a tumor suppressor gene when normal sleep cycles are disrupted over a long period of time. 

Prolonged work on the night shift is known to increase hormone driven cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.  Now researchers have a better understanding of why. A protein that normally inhibits excessive cell division gets turned off, says Carla Finkielstein, an associate professor of biology at Virginia Tech.  She says the findings suggest night shift work should be considered a health hazard should be addressed.

"You have night shift workers, but they don’t need to work for very many years, that shift. Maybe instead of working ten years or fifteen years night shift, maybe they just work three years and then they need to rotate back to day shift. Maybe that will just solve the problem. "

Finkielstein says now that they’ve identified the molecular marker, called ‘human period 2’ it’s possible to test night shift workers for it and perhaps prevent cancer from occurring.