“Women who work long-term night-shift jobs … are twice as likely to develop breast cancer,” is a headline which will naturally cause concern for many women working night shifts. And like most things a closer look brings things into sharper focus.
First this latest research repeats what is already known; and the tone about the outcome is overplayed. For an excellent review of the research findings you can check out the analysis by Bazian for NHS Choices. Even so the conclusion WADES through the usual albeit sensible preventive steps of Weight, Alcohol, Diet, Exercise, and Smoking. However there are additional and practical steps that can be taken directly on the cause of all this concern about women’s health – the shift pattern itself.
The description ‘Night shifts is not that helpful’. Depending on the pattern, night shift working can be the difference between ‘chalk & cheese’. For example there is a big difference working 7 night shift straight thru and two days off; and 4 night shifts separated by a 24 hour break followed by four days off. You can check out an example of what we mean here.
In addition to the NHS Choices review, one of our contributors Sue Woolfenden offers practical advice about reducing the risks of shift pattern working on women’s health. Sue has many years experiencing researching shift work in the field and her findings are based on first hand experience. You can access the article here Coping with Shiftwork: The Impact on Women’s Health