Shift workers and increased risk of breast cancer

  1. Just finished reading and listening to articles regarding the documented increase in nurses ( and others) who work nights and the increased risk of breast cancer. I am floored. I had no idea. The risk can run as high as 50-60 percent increased risk.

    I am suprised and wondered how everyone else feels about this. Of course, the longer you do nights the greater the risk. I came into nursing late and as a RN in an ICU setting do two weeks of nights and then two weeks of days (12 hour shifts). I am 45 and suddenly I am overcome by the need to finish my BScN.......start my masters and get the hell out of the shift work world. These odds are too great.

    I have never heard anyone at work talk about this issue. I am suprised more nurses here are not up in arms.......... but then I am a total health nut.........I worry all the time..........probally too much about my own health, after seeing some awful things in the hospital. I am just finishing up another course and then hand me the next one baby...........get me the hell out of the night shift.

    Too bad, ICU was my dream.........but my health is too important.

    I would love to hear how some of you feel about his issue.
  2. Visit JMP profile page

    About JMP

    Joined: Feb '01; Posts: 740; Likes: 2
    RN, ICU


  3. by   zumalong
    JMP Wondered where you heard those stats. Please remember that any research is only as good as the people conducting it. It does make sense that your immune system can be affected by working shift work. But does that mean all my colleaques who work nights have breast cancer (or 1/2 of them). I doubt it.

    I think it is worse on your body if you change shifts everyday. I used to do 12 hour nights have a bogus day off (from 7am to 7am the next day) and then work 12 hour days. This was a killer to the body. I think when you work 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off it is easier to deal with the sleep (or lack thereof) issue.

    You say you are a health nut--does this mean you take good care of yourself? Other studies have shown that diet and exercise can help prevent some cancers from occurring.

    I think if the ICU has been your dream then don't give it up because of a study. If you want to go back to school then go for it. Maybe you can be a nurse practioner in the ICU. The possibilities are endless. Don;t waste your life worrying about what might happen--

    Good luck
  4. by   Marj Griggs
    I worked nights for about 8 years, all told, but when I read about the research, I just added that to all my other risk factors (overweight, HRT for about 12 years, stress, etc.,) and thought, "well, no wonder," when they found a mass on my mammogram (by the way, they take a LOT of films when they "see" something!).(and we all LOVE mammograms,lol)
    I am now in my second year of remission.

    I don't think that a 50% increase means that 50% of people who worked nights will get breast cancer, I think it means that if my risk was 2% it's now 3%.
  5. by   Marijke
    I also came across an article regarding the increased risk of breast cancer in shift workers. It stated that women working nightshifts for a prolonged period of time had an increased risk of 8% to get breast cancer.
    When I read on to find out what they called a prolonged time, I found to my amazement it was only 2 years. Wonder where that leaves me after over 15 years?
    Unfortunately I don't remember where the study was coming from, but it was a very good university.