The association between night shift work and breast cancer risk in the Finnish twins cohort
Breast cancer is highly prevalent yet a more complete understanding of the interplay between genes and probable environmental risk factors, such as night work, remains lagging.
Using a discordant twin pair design, we examined the association between night shift work and breast cancer risk, controlling for familial confounding. Shift work pattern was prospectively assessed by mailed questionnaires among 5,781 female twins from the Older Finnish Twin Cohort.
Over the study period (1990–2018), 407 incident breast cancer cases were recorded using the Finnish Cancer Registry. Cox proportional hazards models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) adjusting for potential confounders. Within-pair co-twin analyses were employed in 57 pairs to account for potential familial confounding.
Compared to women who worked days only, women with shift work that included night shifts had a 1.58-fold higher risk of breast cancer (HR = 1.58; 95%CI, 1.16–2.15, highest among the youngest women i.e. born 1950–1957, HR = 2.08; 95%CI, 1.32–3.28), whereas 2-shift workers not including night shifts, did not (HR = 0.84; 95%CI, 0.59–1.21). Women with longer sleep (average sleep duration > 8 h/night) appeared at greatest risk of breast cancer if they worked night shifts (HR = 2.91; 95%CI, 1.55–5.46; Pintx=0.32).
Results did not vary by chronotype (Pintx=0.74). Co-twin analyses, though with limited power, suggested that night work may be associated with breast cancer risk independent of early environmental and genetic factors.
These results confirm a previously described association between night shift work and breast cancer risk. Genetic influences only partially explain these associations.
E. Schernhammer, L. Bogl, C. Hublin, S. Strohmaier, M. Zebrowska, A. Erber, S. Haghayegh, K. Papantoniou, M. Ollikainen, J. Kaprio, The association between night shift work and breast cancer risk in the Finnish twins cohort, Eur J Epidemiol (2023).