Is sleep deprivation a risk factor for certain cancers? This astonishing question was the focus of the Sleep Congress that just brought together more than 2,000 specialists in Marseille. The French suffer from sleep deprivation and this worries doctors. Why ?
Lack of sleep is a new public health problem. An important company. In France, more than 3.5 million people work nights or staggered hours. Not to mention those who don’t sleep much for personal reasons: trips, hobbies, time in front of the computer or television.
Overall, almost a third of French adults sleep less than 6 hours a night during the week.
As a result, there is a higher risk of developing certain chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. But also an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
The first study sounded the alarm in the mid-1990s. For 15 years, this study followed Finnish flight attendants who were deployed on long-haul flights and were therefore exposed to permanent time differences. Conclusion: an increased risk of breast cancer for them. These results have been confirmed by other studies conducted on other stewardesses, but also on nurses working at night.
Studies conducted in Japan and Canada in particular on men who work staggered hours have shown an increased risk of colon and prostate cancer.
A recognized risk
In 2008, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, based in Lyon, classified night work as “probably carcinogenic”. So a probable cause of cancer. Also worth noting is the Danish government’s decision in 2009 to pay special compensation to women suffering from breast cancer, particularly nurses and flight attendants, who worked long night shifts. This decision also recognizes that these cancers have occupational disease status. But only Denmark has taken this step.
Where’s the danger?
Lack of sleep and staggered working hours should be taken into account as both are considered risk factors. Night or shift work is associated with a desynchronization of the internal clock. All biological rhythms are disturbed. In particular, the production of hormones and melatonin. This deregulation of the hormone system could explain why women who work nights have a 40% increased risk of one day developing breast cancer, which is a hormone-dependent cancer.
Regular sleep deprivation leads to exhaustion and a weakened immune system. As a result, the body can no longer defend itself and get rid of cells that undergo mutations and become cancerous. It no longer manages to eliminate them as usual, which promotes the development of cancer. People who work nights or atypical hours face two risks: their biological clock is out of sync, but they are also sleep deprived.
A good sleep
While lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, on the contrary, good sleep duration and quality play a positive role in the prognosis of therapy for many cancer diseases, and this confirms the extent to which sleep contributes to strengthening the body’s immune system.
Scientists have calculated the ideal amount of sleep to be seven hours a night.
If you work nights, atypical hours, or are otherwise sleep deprived, it is imperative that you try to get seven hours of sleep per 24 hours. That doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping seven hours straight. For example, if you only sleep five hours a night, you need to balance that with a two-hour nap—a big nap.
We now know that seven hours is a neutral duration with no particular risk of developing cancer or other chronic diseases.
Francetvinfo/MCP, via mediacongo.net
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