Does being a night owl increase breast cancer risk?

night owl

paper presented at the National Cancer Research Institute [November 5] has made for some flashy headlines, like this confident declaration from India’s Economic Times: “Ladies, check your alarm: Waking up early may cut breast-cancer risk.” But most headlines have been appropriately measured and wordy, like The Independent’s “Women who prefer to wake up early have lower risk of breast cancer than night owls.”

The research itself comes from a paper titled “Investigating causal relationships between sleep traits and risk of breast cancer”


Research that explicitly sets out to answer a causal question but doesn’t quite get there leaves room for a lot of confusion, especially when the press release drums home causal claims. But the other major source of confusion—is this about behavior or preference?—is one that has the researchers scratching their heads, too. It’s not clear, they write, “whether it is the actual behavior which poses the health risk or the preference to morning versus evening.”

Related article:  Viewpoint: Widespread DNA testing for breast cancer risk is ‘an irresponsible idea'

That is, it might be the case that getting up early, regardless of how awful it feels for you, could slightly reduce your risk of breast cancer. But it could also be the case that the risk factor comes from being born a night owl, and getting up early will achieve nothing other than making you (and everyone around you) more miserable.

Read full, original post: Being a morning person might have some health advantages

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