Melatonin

Night Shift work ~ Cancer link

Victoria harbor, from Victoria Peak - Hong Kong SARScientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have found a possible link between night work and tumor formation. Although numerous studies suggested a link between night shift work and cancer, this is the first time it has been evaluated by the IARC, said Aaron Blair, scientist emeritus at the U.S. National Cancer Institute and chairman of the IARC Working Group that evaluated the shift work-cancer link.

On the epidemiological side, “there’s human data — nurses, airplane flight attendants, different groups that engage in shift work — that have an elevated risk of breast cancer, and that’s the strongest finding,” Blair said. “There’s lesser evidence, but some positive evidence, for [increased risk of] prostate cancer, and a little less, but still positive, evidence, for colon cancer.” In animal studies, rats exposed to light during their nocturnal, active phase, also displayed spikes in cancer incidence, Blair said.

In investigations into possible biological mechanisms linking working through the wee hours to heightened odds for malignancy, the strongest theory involves melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland. Shift workers interrupt their natural melatonin formation. 2007

Researchers in Hong Kong report that the hormone melatonin, more commonly used to reduce the effects of jetlag, could protect the brain from the effects of stroke. March, 2003