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Samulin Erdem J1, Notø HØ1, Skare Ø2, Lie JS2, Petersen-Øverleir M1, Reszka E3, Pepłońska B4, Zienolddiny S1. Mechanisms of breast cancer risk in shift workers: association of telomere shortening with the duration and intensity of night work. Cancer Med. 2017 Aug;6(8):1988-1997.


Occupational factors such as shiftwork and especially night work that involves disruption of the circadian rhythm may contribute to increased breast cancer risk. Circadian disruption may also affect telomere length (TL). While short TL generally is associated with increased cancer risk, its association with breast cancer risk is inconclusive. We suggest that working schedules might be an important factor in assessment of effects of TL on breast cancer risk. Moreover, telomere shortening might be a potential mechanism for night work-related breast cancer. In this study, effects of shift work on TL and its association with breast cancer risk were investigated in a nested breast cancer case-control study of Norwegian nurses. TL was assessed by qPCR in DNA from 563 breast cancer patients and 619 controls. Here, we demonstrate that TL is affected by intensive night work schedules, as work with six consecutive night for a period of more than 5 years was associated with decreased telomere lengths (-3.18, 95% CI: -6.46 to -0.58, P = 0.016). Furthermore, telomere shortening is associated with increased breast cancer risk in workers with long periods of consecutive night shifts. Thus, nurses with longer telomere lengths had a lower risk for breast cancer if they had worked more than four (OR: 0.37, 95% CI: 0.16-0.79, P = 0.014) or five (OR: 0.31, 95% CI: 0.10-0.83, P = 0.029) consecutive night shifts for a period of 5 years or more. These data suggest that telomere shortening is associated with the duration and intensity of night work and may be a contributing factor for breast cancer risk among female shift workers.

  1. Peppard PE, Young T, Barnet JH, Palta M, Hagen EW, Hla KM. Increased prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing in adults. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 May 1;177(9):1006-14.



Sleep-disordered breathing is a common disorder with a range of harmful sequelae. Obesity is a strong causal factor for sleep-disordered breathing, and because of the ongoing obesity epidemic, previous estimates of sleep-disordered breathing prevalence require updating. We estimated the prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing in the United States for the periods of 1988-1994 and 2007-2010 using data from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, an ongoing community-based study that was established in 1988 with participants randomly selected from an employed population of Wisconsin adults. A total of 1,520 participants who were 30-70 years of age had baseline polysomnography studies to assess the presence of sleep-disordered breathing. Participants were invited for repeat studies at 4-year intervals. The prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing was modeled as a function of age, sex, and body mass index, and estimates were extrapolated to US body mass index distributions estimated using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The current prevalence estimates of moderate to severe sleep-disordered breathing (apnea-hypopnea index, measured as events/hour, ≥15) are 10% (95% confidence interval (CI): 7, 12) among 30-49-year-old men; 17% (95% CI: 15, 21) among 50-70-year-old men; 3% (95% CI: 2, 4) among 30-49-year-old women; and 9% (95% CI: 7, 11) among 50-70 year-old women. These estimated prevalence rates represent substantial increases over the last 2 decades (relative increases of between 14% and 55% depending on the subgroup).


  1. Culebras A, Anwar S. Sleep Apnea Is a Risk Factor for Stroke and Vascular Dementia. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2018 Jun 25;18 (8):53. Review.