If you work nights, your fear of getting ovarian cancer is actually somewhat grounded, as this risk is real to any woman who works a night shift.
This is maddening to all the women out there who work nights as nurses, doctors and other medical personnel, as well as in other occupations that often involve steady night work such as truck drivers, police officers, guards, hotel staff and convenience/grocery store workers.
Night Work Drives up Ovarian Cancer Risk
A report in the May 2013 Occupational and Environmental Medicine says that a nigh tshift is associated with a 24 percent higher risk of advanced disease and 49 percent for early-stage disease, when compared to women working a day job.
The study subjects were ages 35 to 74.
Alarming: Length of Night Work Need Not Be Long
Another alarming aspect of the study was that the night shift durations averaged 2.7 years to 3.5 years for all three groups of women, the three groups being: advanced illness, early-stage illness and no ovarian cancer.
Women over age 50 who had worked nights were significantly more likely to have the disease.
The study did not unveil a cumulative risk for ovarian cancer the more years that a woman worked at night.
It also did not look into whether or not the risk wore off as time went on, once the women quit the night work.
For example, you’re probably aware that if a person quits smoking, their risk of lung cancer diminishes as the years go on.
Does the risk of ovarian cancer diminish as the years go on, once a woman ceases working nights? What if a woman worked nights for five years straight — 20 years ago?
Why does night work put a woman a higher risk of ovarian cancer?
The study notes that the increased risk of the disease may be linked to the hormone melatonin, a powerful antioxidant, which is produced while we sleep—but in dark rooms—the darker the better. Melatonin production is suppressed by light.
There are quite a few night shift job opportunities out there that may have appeal to women, and this includes the medical profession, such as nurses.
Another type of job that has offered plenty of night work opportunities is that of newspaper production — at least years ago when many of the tasks were not as automated as they are today.
Sometimes a woman has no choice but to work nights, but then there are those who think it would be an interesting experience, or who do so for the extra “differential” pay.
But is the increased risk for ovarian cancer worth working nights when you don’t really have to?