Working night shifts and having jet lag may make tumors grow faster by ‘turning on’ genes, new research suggests.
Disrupting the circadian rhythms that fuel our sleeping and waking cycles may ‘turn on’ genes that encourage cancer cells to multiply and ‘turn off’ the ones that block tumor growth, according to the new University of Pennsylvania study.
That means that simply keeping sleep schedules steady may help to cut cancer risks.
And the researchers even believe that timing cancer treatments correctly could make them more effective.
Long before cell phone screens, fluorescent lights and the 24-hour news cycle, the human schedule was dictated by light and dark.
And try as we might to overcome nature with technology, our bodies still operate according to circadian rhythms, waves of sleeping and waking that regulate many of the body’s other processes.
These rhythms flow in a 24 hour cycle and are sometimes referred to as the internal clock.
But they are triggered by fluctuations in certain hormones that are, in turn, responsive to environmental cues, most notably light.
So when we force ourselves to stay up late into the night, or to do waking behaviors during dark hours, the body winds up fighting itself and the processes that would naturally occur at night.
For example, women who do shift work are at five to 20 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer than the general population.
The same hormones that tell our body when to sleep also have effects on tumors.
In other words, the disruption accelerates cell division and, therefore, tumor growth.
Scientists have already developed a drug that blocks the activity of that second protein, which is used in tumor fighting.
In fact, the team’s findings suggest that ‘chornotherapy’ or time-based cancer treatment might be able to supercharge drugs and techniques used to fight tumors.
Night Shift work and jet lags may make tumors grow faster by ‘turning on’ genes, new research suggests. Disrupted sleep patterns may turn on cancer genes.