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Associations among rotating night shift work, sleep and skin cancer in Nurses' Health Study II participants


Background Night shift work and sleep duration have been associated with breast and other cancers. Results from the few prior studies of night shift work and skin cancer risk have been mixed and not fully accounted for other potentially important health-related variables (eg, sleep characteristics). This study evaluated the relationship between rotating night shift work and skin cancer risk and included additional skin cancer risk factors and sleep-related variables.

Methods The current study used data from 74 323 Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) II participants. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate multivariable-adjusted HRs and 95% CIs for skin cancers across categories of shift work and sleep duration.

Results Over 10 years of follow-up, 4308 basal cell carcinoma (BCC), 334 squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and 212 melanoma cases were identified. Longer duration of rotating night shifts was associated with a linear decline in risk of BCC (HR=0.93, 95% CI 0.90 to 0.97 per 5-year increase). Shift work was not significantly associated with either melanoma (HR=1.02, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.21) or SCC (HR=0.92, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.06). A short sleep duration (≤6 hours per day) was associated with lower risks of melanoma (HR=0.68, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.98) and BCC (HR=0.93, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.00) compared with the most common report of 7 hours. SCC was not associated with duration of sleep (HR=0.94, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.06).

Conclusions Longer duration of rotating night shift work and shorter sleep duration were associated with lower risk of some skin cancers. Further research is needed to confirm and identify the mechanisms underlying these associations.

  • rotating night shift work
  • skin cancer

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