Shift work that involves circadian disruption has been classified as probably carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, although more recent epidemiological evidence is not consistent. Several mechanisms have been postulated to explain an association between night work and female breast cancer, but the most likely is suppression of the hormone melatonin by light exposure at night. Three articles recently published in this journal describe aspects of exposure to light during night work. These articles and other evidence suggest that nighttime light levels may not always be sufficient to affect melatonin production, which could in part explain the inconsistencies in the epidemiological data. There is need to improve the specificity and reliability of exposure assessments in future epidemiological studies of night shift workers.
- breast cancer
- night shift work
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health