Not getting enough sleep? You could be increasing your breast cancer risk
A new study suggests that an adequate amount of sleep could help women ward off breast cancer, while lack of shut-eye increases the risk.
That’s because sleep promotes the release of the hormone melatonin that can stop the growth of cancer tumours, researchers at Michigan State University found.
Melatonin, which works to regulate the sleep cycle, is only released by the brain at night when we sleep.
According to a new report published the journal Genes & Cancer, scientists grew cancerous tumours from stem cells in a lab using the natural hormone oestrogen, as well as an oestrogen-like chemical found in many plastic food packages.
They found that treating the cancer with melatonin significantly decreased the number and size of tumours when compared with the control group of tumours that received none.
This finding supports a 2012 study that indicated that women who repeatedly lacked sleep developed more aggressive breast cancers.
A 2013 report that found men suffering from insomnia had higher rates of prostate cancer.
“This work establishes the principal by which cancer growth may be regulated by natural hormones,” said James Trosko, a co-author of the study at MSU, in a statement.
“And (it) provides an important new technique to screen chemicals for cancer-promoting effects, as well as identify potential new drugs for use in the clinic,” he added.
Since treatments are still some time away, experts recommend getting good, quality sleep that promotes the release of melatonin.
The US National Sleep Foundation suggests sticking to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wakeup time — even on the weekends — to establish a comfortable rhythm.
Health experts also recommend winding down before bed by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, heavy meals and electronic devices.