Breast cancer is the worldwide leading cause of cancer incidence among women. Night shift work exposure has been recently considered one of the significant breast cancer risk factors in industrialized countries. The mechanisms by which this work exposure may be responsible for cancerdevelopment is still discussed. In the last 15 years, many authors have paid attention to the relationship between night shift work and breast cancer risk. In the current study, eight case-control studies and four prospective epidemiological studies describing such relationship are discussed. A positive correlation between night shift work and breast cancer risk was described in 8 out of 12 studies. However, different reasons suggest that some of these studies have an Achilles heel according to the International Agency of Cancer (IARC) indications. Both the circadian system alteration and the melatonin output reduction, related to the exposure to light-at-night during night shift work, remain the most valid hypotheses on the causal relation of shift work and breast cancer. Overall, the results of the present study suggest that there is an association between night shift work and breast cancer development in western countries. However, further studies are needed to confirm such association and to understand which biomolecular mechanisms may be involved in the pathogenesis of cancer diagnosed in patients with night shift work exposure.
Correlation of the risk of breast cancer and disruption of the circadian rhythm (Review)