Night workers face higher cancer risk

Written By: James Douglas
Published: February 11, 2018 Last modified: February 11, 2018

The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) confirmed the increased risks of cancer for workers who carry out night or shift work.

Researchers from Sichuan University, China, reviewed 61 studies published between 1996 and 2017 on the effects of night work on the health of women. The data covers 115,000 cases of cancer and four million participants living in the US, Australia, Asia and Europe. They conclude that in the long term the risk of breast cancer increases by 32 %, skin cancer by 41 % and gastrointestinal cancers by 18 %.

The risk of breast cancer increases by 3.3 % for every five years of night work. Of all the occupations studied, nurses are most affected: they are 58% more likely to get breast cancer, 35% more likely to get a gastrointestinal cancer (stomach, oesophageal, liver, pancreatic, colorectal) and 28% more likely to get lung cancer.

Atypical working hours are also harmful to men’s health. In September 2017, a study published in The Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment & Health revealed that workers carrying out shift or night work have a higher risk of contracting prostate cancer. This risk is twice as high for them as for workers who have never worked shifts or at night.