Night Shift - Can it cause cancer?

Night Shift - Can it cause cancer?

India has become a service economy. Service exports exceeded $345 billion in 2023. Software development and knowledge process outsourcing have significantly contributed to this.

Many jokes circulate about Indians answering phone calls for large companies such as Microsoft or even AT&T.

But can staying up at night lead to cancer? What, if anything, could be the link?

In 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer announced the possibility of working a night shift, potentially causing cancer.

Since then, researchers have conducted numerous studies on the risks. The risks evaluated remain inconclusive.

Despite the mention of breast cancer, there appears to be no direct correlation between not sleeping and an increased risk.

However, the link between night shifts and cancer is complex and multifaceted. Exposure to artificial light at night suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and is believed to have cancer-protective properties.

Lower melatonin levels might increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer.

In addition to melatonin suppression, other factors might contribute to the increased risk.

Disrupted circadian rhythms, which are the body's internal clock regulating sleep-wake cycles, can lead to hormonal imbalances and immune system dysfunction.

These changes may create an environment more conducive to cancer development.

A poor lifestyle, usually associated with night shifts, could also lower immunity, increasing the risk of cancer. 

Cancer is a risk that easily triggers alarms.

Therefore, any activity associated with cancer immediately triggers an alarm. This does not diminish the potential risks associated with inadequate sleep. The presence and intensity of light, particularly sunlight, regulate our sleep.

So if you sleep from 3 or 4 a.m. until noon and then stay awake at night, it causes a disregulation of your sleep cycle. Poor sleep is associated with poor memory, low immunity, and ultimately a loss of motor and speech function.

Remember, cancer can manifest over decades, not years, especially if the cohort under study is younger. So, we are not home-free yet.

Reach out to me on twitter @rbawri Instagram @riteshbawriofficial and YouTube at