Many of us were shocked to learn working the graveyard shift will kill you.
Nov. 30, 2007 — Working the night shift may cause cancer,
according to a report published in The Lancet. The report comes from a
team of 44 scientists in 10 countries commissioned by the World Health
Organization’s International Agency on Cancer Research.
They report “limited” evidence of a connection between cancer and night
shift work in people.
That evidence included a higher rate of breast
cancer in female nurses who work night shifts…. those studies
provided “sufficient evidence” of a connection between circadian rhythm
disruption and cancer, states the report.
The scientists concluded that “shift work that involves circadian
rhythm disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans,” write Kurt
Straif, MD, and colleagues. They note that shift work may raise cancer
risk by suppressing production of melatonin, a chemical involved in the
I know a lot of people who earn their livings at night.
They work in
radio, fight fires, police the street, collect garbage, work in
hospitals and deliver mail.
The thought we might be unwittingly shortening our lives because of the
schedule we work — and destroying our circadian rhythms in the process
— is a great concern.
I understand we cannot catch up on lost sleep and every hour we miss is
a dagger in our coffins. Reflecting back on our lives we are inevitably
confronted by all those graveyard temptations.
For several years in my youth I worked overnight shifts on the radio
three nights a week while attending school on a full-time day schedule.
I never really slept for half the week and even a quick power nap could
not bring me back from the dead.
My situation is hardly unique — there are many young people who work
and attend school and rarely sleep — but I can’t help wondering if we
are killing ourselves in our youth in order to achieve a comfortable retirement many of us will never experience?