2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

The Night Shift and Breast Cancer

Posted 10/23/2006

For years, doctors have puzzled over why women who work the night shift are more likely to get breast cancer. Now they think they’ve come up with an explanation, and it has to do with melatonin–the same melatonin sold to promote sleep.

Melatonin is a hormone made by the tiny pineal gland in your brain. (For years, doctors had no idea what the pineal actually did. In fact, early anatomy books named it “the seat of the soul.”)

Your brain responds to darkness by producing more melatonin, which in turn makes you sleepy. When you’re in bright light, either natural or artificial, your brain makes less melatonin. If you ever wondered why you fall asleep in a dark theater or wake up when sun pours into your bedroom, now you know.

As a side note, melatonin is made from serotonin. Logically then, women with low-serotonin Triple Whammy disorders often have more problems sleeping.

Melatonin is also an extremely powerful antioxidant, and has even tested well in lab animals in high doses as cancer therapy.

Some recent research looked at the melatonin-breast cancer connection. Doctors injected human breast cancer cells into rats. The cells “took” and started to grow. Then they injected the rats with one of two types of blood, the first from women with very low melatonin levels and the other from women with high melatonin levels.

The growth of the cancer cells in rats given the high-melatonin blood was dramatically suppressed, while cancer cells in the rats that got low-melatonin blood continued to grow. The provisional conclusion: melatonin can suppress the growth of breast cancer cells.

Many women working the night shift don’t ever experience total darkness, and thus their melatonin levels never get particularly high. It’s this lack of melatonin production that may be the basis for their increased breast cancer risk.

A couple of important cautions:

  • Even if you’re a poor sleeper, you’re still making melatonin as long as you’re in the dark (i.e., breast cancer risk is not higher among insomniacs).
  • It’s too early to recommend taking melatonin as a supplement to prevent breast cancer.

However, melatonin is a safe and effective sleep aid and a potent antioxidant. If you happen to work the night shift, it may be a prudent addition to your daily supplements.

Click here for the product we recommend.


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops


**Winter Solstice Celebration: An evening of Acupuncture and Shamanic Healing
Tuesday, December 17, 5:45–7:30pm
Hosted by Katie Oberlin, HTCP and Mari Stecker, LAc

Course Fee: $75.00

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to enter the stillpoint of the Winter Solstice, reflect on the lessons of 2019, and set intentions for the new year. This will be an evening of individual and group healing, ceremony, and celebration. More →

Recent Health Tips

  • Ten Drugs Doctors Should Consider De-Prescribing

    Physicians use the word polypharmacy when a patient is taking five or more prescription drugs daily. A recent survey showed that half of women Medicare recipients were taking five or more drugs daily, and 12% of them were taking ten (!) or more. New patients frequently arrive at WholeHealth Chicago carrying bags stuffed like piñatas with prescription drugs and nutritional supplements, the latter recommended by Read More

  • Toxic Metals, Heart Disease, and Chelation Therapy

    In last week’s Health Tip I reviewed the well-researched health dangers of environmental toxic metals (also called heavy metals). They’ve always been a serious health risk, but with the Trump Administration’s recent rollbacks of clean air and water regulations we can expect even more trouble ahead. Statisticians predict an astonishing 160,000 unnecessary deaths over the next decade from the reversals of clean air and water Read More

  • Heavy Metal Toxicity and Your Health

    For those who were otherwise preoccupied that day long ago in high school chemistry, the heavy metals refer to a group of especially dense metals or metal-like substances (called metalloids) found in the environment. These metals–specifically lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and aluminum–can all be absorbed by your body and stored there. Our environment is already quite toxic (Trump’s EPA deregulations aren’t helping) and it’s getting Read More

This month, save 20% off all Metagenics Medical Foods

UltraMeal
UltraInflamX
UltraClear