The impact of night shift work on breast cancer: Results from the Burden of Occupational Cancer in Canada Study

Pahwa M, Labrèche F, Kim J, Harris MA, Song C, Peters CE, Arrandale VH, Davies H, McLeod CB, Demers PA. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 2019 Aug;62(8):635-642.

Background: We estimated the proportion and number of female breast cancer cases in Canada attributable to night shift work, a probable cause of breast cancer.

Methods: Levin’s equation was used to calculate population attributable fractions (PAFs) among Canadian women who ever worked night/rotating shifts from 1961 to 2000, accounting for labor turnover and survival to the year 2011. The calculated PAFs were applied to 2011 Canadian breast cancer incidence statistics to obtain the number of attributable cases.

Results: Approximately 1.5 million women ever worked night/rotating shifts during 1961-2000 and survived to 2011. The PAFs ranged from 2.0% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.4-6.2) to 5.2% (95% CI: 3.7-13.6), and 470 to 1200 incident breast cancer cases in 2011 were likely due to shift work, of which 38% would have been diagnosed among women in health-related occupations.

Conclusions: More research is needed to increase the certainty of this association, but current evidence supports workplace-based prevention.