Working night shift may affect DNA repair, trigger cancer—study

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Scientists have often warned us about the potential health hazards  of night-shift work, and this recent study may just be the most alarming one yet.

A research done by doctors from the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, USA, claimed that those who work night shift are at risk of mutations that may lead to cancer, as the body may stop repairing daily damage to DNA.

Prior to the shocking findings, those with disrupted body clocks were believed to be more prone to diabetes, obesity, poor fertility, heart attacks and tumors.

After several tests involving 50 night-shift workers, researchers concluded that those who work at nighttime come up with 80 percent less of a chemical that is a by-product of DNA tissue repair, The Telegraph reported.

Furthermore, scientists discovered a lack of melatonin—or the sleep hormone— among subjects, which was far lower than those with regular working schedules.

“Over time, this accumulation would likely increase the risk of cancer across multiple sites as has been observed among shift workers,” Dr. Parveen Bhatti, one of the study’s authors, was quoted as saying in the report.

He also stressed that the human body has a “reduced capacity to repair and clear oxidative DNA damage” if awake by night.

Dr. Bhatti suggested that shift workers take sleep hormone supplements to allow DNA to carry out repairs when they sleep in daytime.

“If such effects are confirmed, melatonin supplementation should be explored as an intervention to reduce the occurrence of potentially carcinogenic DNA damage among shift workers,” he explained.

The full research is available at the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.  Khristian Ibarrola /ra

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