Study Finds Morning People May Have a Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

Good news for larks.

If you prefer waking up early to staying up late, you're in luck. According to a new study published on Wednesday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), so-called "larks" have a lower risk of breast cancer than their "night owl" counterparts.

Previous research has shown that night owls have a higher risk of early death, and are more likely to suffer from obesity, insomnia, anxiety, depression, ADHD, substance abuse, and mental disorders than early birds. But the researchers at Imperial College London wanted to see whether or not the genetic factors that determine one's chronotype—when one naturally feels the most alert and the most tired—are linked to their risk for breast cancer as well.

To do so, they analyzed the genetic variants associated with three sleep traits—chronotype, length of sleep, and insomnia—of more than 400,000 women involved with 28 previous studies. They found that one of out every 100 women who described themselves as a "morning" type developed breast cancer, compared with two out of every 100 women who described themselves as "evening" types.

Unfortunately, according to experts, there isn't much that night owls can do to decrease this risk, given that your chronotype is genetic. "It is important to note that these data do not suggest in any way that modifying sleep habits could eventually lead to a decrease in the risk of breast cancer," Dr. Luca Magnani, senior research fellow at the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial College London, told the Science Media Centre. "It appears that the risk of breast cancer is associated with a genetic (thus not modifiable) trait that is in itself associated with a 'morning' or 'night' preference—what we call 'larks' and 'owls.'"

That being said, the researchers emphasize that whether or not you prefer getting up early or staying up late doesn't have nearly as much of an impact as other factors that increase the risk of breast cancer—such as your alcohol intake and your BMI, which are modifiable.

And if you feel like you are neither a lark nor an owl, check out New Research Shows There Aren't Just Morning or Night People Out There.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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