The Association of Night Shift Work with the Development of Breast Cancer in Women


Breast cancer is a serious public health concern in South Africa and globally. It is estimated that one in seven South Africans will develop cancer in their lifetime. According to a case-controlled study, 80% of cancer cases are thought to be due to external, non-inherited factors, which could potentially have been prevented. The objectives of the current case-control study were: 1) to determine the relationship between night shift work and the development of breast cancer; 2) to explore the relationship between night shift work and other types of cancer; 3) to explore any difference between night shift work and breast cancer, and night shift work and other types of cancer. A total of 106 research participants were selected using non-probability, convenience sampling methods and interviewed using a structured questionnaire. Seventy-two (68%) of the women who were interviewed were black, while 32% (n = 35) were white. Of the 106 research participants, 82% (n = 87) had a history of being employed, while 18% (n = 19) had never been employed. Analysed data showed that 29% (n = 31) of the women had a history of working night shift. Of the 31 research participants who reported having worked night shift, 90% (n = 28) had actually done rotating shift work, rather than regular night shift work. The odds ratio of working night shift was found to be 1.24 (OR = 1.24, p = 0.615) higher in breast cancer research participants compared to research participants diagnosed with other types of cancer—odds ratio of 0.80 (p = 0.610). For rotational work, the OR was 1.445, indicating a higher risk than for shift work. It is recommended that the relationship between working night shift and breast cancer risk be explored further through cross-sectional and cohort studies.

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Moukangoe, P. and Jansen van Rensburg, M. (2015) The Association of Night Shift Work with the Development of Breast Cancer in Women. Open Journal of Epidemiology, 5, 14-21. doi: 10.4236/ojepi.2015.51003.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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