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People who work night shifts may experience sleep deprivation, drowsiness, fatigue and consequences such as drowsy driving-related accidents and workplace errors. A new study, reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, now suggests that female workers on night shifts may also be more likely to suffer from ovarian cancer.

The enhanced risk of ovarian cancer for women who work night shifts was revealed in a study that involved more than 1,100 women with advanced ovarian cancer. These women were compared with 1,800 women who did not have cancer.

The women were between the ages of 35 and 74. They worked in diverse fields, including healthcare, office administration, hospitality and other sectors that are dependent on night shifts.

The researchers found that women who work night shifts had a 22 percent increased risk of advanced cancer and a 49 percent increased risk of early-stage cancer. Women older than 50 were significantly more likely to suffer from ovarian cancer when they worked night shifts.

Of the women who had been working night shifts, approximately 27 percent said that they tended to be night persons and worked better at night. About 20 percent, however, said that they were day persons. The risk of advanced ovarian cancer as well as borderline cancer seemed to be much higher among day persons than among those who said they worked better at night.

The researchers believe that this higher risk of ovarian cancer could have something to do with the hormone melatonin, which regulates estrogen and is normally produced at night.

Michael Parsons is an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer, representing injured workers in the metro Atlanta region and helping them recover the workers’ compensation benefits that they have earned.