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Study Identifies Sleeplessness As New Breast Cancer Risk Factor


Sleeplessness As New Breast Cancer Risk Factor

Lack of sleep has been associated with aggressive forms of breast cancer, according to a study. Researchers from University Hospitals Case Medical Center’s Seidman Cancer Center and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University, conducted a study which shows that there is a link between lack of sleep and cancer aggressiveness. They gathered data from the 412 post-menopausal breast cancer patients who were treated at UH Case Medical Center. They interviewed patients enrolled in the study and found that they slept 6 hours a night (on average) over the past two years. Dr. Thompson, who is Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and lead author, said this is the first study showing the relationship between the number of hours of sleep per night and cancer aggressiveness. She added that a smaller number of hours of sleep per night is associated with cancer recurrence. In addition, she said that more studies are needed to deepen this discovery.



Another finding was that the relationship between the number of hours of sleep and cancer aggressiveness is only in post-menopausal women, and not in pre-menopausal women. Therefore, researchers believe that sleep may influence pathways involved in carcinogenesis, especially in post-menopausal women.

There are other lifestyle factors involved in breast cancer. For example, smoking was associated with breast cancer. It is believed that breast cancer risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked. Also, as earlier started smoking, the cancer risk is higher. Lack of physical activity is also a risk factor. Obesity, fat diet, oral contraceptives have been incriminated as risk factors for breast cancer. Besides lifestyle, there are hereditary factors. The most common mutations are those of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and is responsible for half a million deaths each year. Method of screening are breast examination and mammography. Signs and symptoms of breast cancer are changes in the breast, nipple retraction or skin appearance such as orange peel. The presence of a lump in the breast is an important sign. It is therefore important palpation and visual examination of the breasts.

Short sleep duration is involved not only in cancer but also in other diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease.  Li Li, MD, PhD, a study co-author, pointed out that increasing the number of hours of sleep could be a way to reduce the risk of developing aggressive forms of cancer.