Special Reports

Study Shows Changing Time Zones Increase Cancer Risks


A new study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) suggests that disruptions to the biological clock slightly increase cancer risks. Apparently, common factors that cause lack of sleep include changing time zones.

Aside from time zones, though, varying work shifts may also destroy someone's precious health. The natural body clock of people may malfunction if no constant schedule is taking place. Scientists actually have a term for it known as "circadian disruption". Now, such disruptions have been associated with higher cancer risks, per Dr. Neil Caporaso, an epidemiologist at NCI and the lead author of the study.

To illustrate, moving five degrees of longitude westward across a particular time zone translates to a 20-minute sunrise delay. When a person is in Boston, he or she wakes up at 8 a.m. However, for those in Ohio, 8 a.m. is still dark. With this in mind, the sunlight cues the person's body clock that the day is about to start.

If the same person often travels from Boston to Ohio and vice-versa, the trip will distort the time difference between the mechanical and biological clock. If he or she is used to going to work during "daytime", time zones will force him or her to go to a job at "nighttime". While this disruption process has been linked to the development of diabetes before, Caporaso's team focused on cancer.

Per Live Science, men living at the edge of their time zones get a three percent increased cancer chances while women get a higher four percent. Moreover, males in the western-most region have a four percent risk of prostate cancer and 13 percent risk of blood cancers compared to eastern people. On the other hand, western women are exposed to a four percent danger of breast cancer, 12 percent of leukemia, and another 10 percent of uterine cancer.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that another study reveals that diagnosed cancer patients are 55 percent more prone to suicide than healthy people. Dr. Raffaella Calati of Lapeyronie Hospital, co-author of the research presented at the European Congress of Psychiatry at Florence, Italy, labeled the results as "extremely preliminary" but significant. Nevertheless, no increase in suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts were recorded in the cancer patient group.

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