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28 August 2012
Lack of sleep a new risk factor for aggressive breast cancer

A new study in the August issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment shows an association between insufficient sleep and more aggressive tumors as well as the likelihood of cancer recurrence.

The researchers, from Case Western Reserve University, analyzed the medical records from 412 post-menopausal breast cancer patients and found that women who reported six hours or less of sleep per night on average had higher tumor recurrence scores.

"This is the first study to suggest that women who routinely sleep fewer hours may develop more aggressive breast cancers compared with women who sleep longer hours," said Dr. Cheryl Thompson, who led the study. "We found a strong correlation between fewer hours of sleep per night and worse recurrence scores, specifically in post-menopausal breast cancer patients. This suggests that lack of sufficient sleep may cause more aggressive tumors."

The authors note that while the correlation of sleep duration and recurrence was strong in post-menopausal women, there was no correlation in pre-menopausal women. Thompson said the data suggest that sleep may affect carcinogenic pathway(s) specifically involved in the development of post-menopausal breast cancer, but not pre-menopausal cancer.

"Short sleep duration is a public health hazard leading not only to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but also cancer," summarized co-researcher Li Li. "Effective intervention to increase duration of sleep and improve quality of sleep could be an under-appreciated avenue for reducing the risk of developing more aggressive breast cancers and recurrence."

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Source: University Hospitals Case Medical Center

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