ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Working rotating night shifts may increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.
A study published in the January online edition of the Journal of Preventive Medicine looks at the role of night shift work in the development of CVD and certain cancers.

Night shift work has been consistently associated with CVD and has been classified by the World Health Organization as a probable carcinogen due to circadian disruption, the disruption of normal day/night cycles that long have been blamed for weight gain, slower thinking and other physiological changes.

The study shows that nurses working rotating night shifts for five or more years appeared to have a modest increase in CVD mortality while those working 15 or more years of rotating night shifts appeared to have a modest increase in lung cancer mortality.

These results add to prior evidence of a potentially detrimental effect of long-term rotating night shift work on health and longevity.
The (international) study examined almost 75,000 registered nurses in the United States using data from the Nurses’ Health Study.

Authors analyzed 22 years of follow-up data and found that working rotating night shifts for more than five years was associated with an increase in all-cause and CVD mortality. Mortality from all causes appeared to be 11 percent higher for women with 6-14 years on rotating shifts. CVD mortality appeared to be 19 percent and 23 percent higher specifically.

Dr. Anne Williams, ND, of Rochat Holistic Health in New York attests to the fact that nightshift work poses serious health threats, and says that this study “should lead to more research and study into options that may mitigate its effect.”

She asks “Would one year of non-night shift work reverse the risk or significantly lower it? Would there be benefit to periodically providing night-shift workers with a certain period of time to reverse circadian rhythm disruption? Can light boxes or specially darkened rooms provide some relief? And most importantly, our focus should examine health factors that are protective,” Williams said.

Additionally Williams wonders about those who do not fall within the average risk category and are not as affected, what is contributing to their relative resilience?

“The outliers should be examined more closely for information to assist those who cannot shift to daytime work,” she said.

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