circadian rhythm

  1. Sleep disorder boosts prostate risk

    Insomnia can lead to deadly prostate tumors

    Men, if you're suffering from a sleep disorder link  insomnia, that last thing you need is more missed sleep -- so try not to let this keep you up at night: Poor sleep can double your risk of prostate cancer, according to new research out of Iceland.

    The more trouble you have sleeping, the higher your risk, according to the study of 2,102 men. And while that's already bad news, this one gets even worse -- because men who have a sleep disorders don't just have a higher risk of prostate cancer.

    They have a higher risk of advanced prostate cancer, according to the study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

    As you may know, many cases of prostate cancer are treatable without drugs or surgery, and often with no treatment at all beyond "watchful waiting."

    But the advanced prostate cancers uncovered in the new study are the ones that can hurt you or worse. They're the cancers that kill more than 28,000 men per year in the United States alone.

    The study itself doesn't show why having a sleep disorder insomnia can increase the risk of prostate cancer, only that there's a link. But we know that poor sleep can disrupt the body's production of melatonin, the "sleep hormone" that can fight aging, boost the immune system, and keep disease at bay.

    More specifically, melatonin is also known to protect against cancer -- including prostate cancer in men, breast cancer in women, and other cancers in men and women alike.

    Insomnia is one way to fall short -- but it's not the only way. Other poor sleep habits can also disrupt melatonin production, and that includes shift work, which forces you to reverse the body's circadian rhythm and sleep during the day instead of the night.

    And once again, there's a link to cancer -- one so consistent that shift work is actually listed as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

    (To find out more about how shift work can raise your cancer risk click here.)

    Melatonin supplements can often help ease a sleep disorder, especially over the short term. However, it is not necessarily a cure so much as a fix (and it won't do much for shift work -- that would require a new job, or at least new hours).

    There's no single answer for sleep problems because there's no single cause -- but a holistic doctor can help find the cause and correct it naturally, without resorting to dangerous sleep medications.

    I'm not done with sleep problems just yet. For more on a major sleep issue affecting millions of Americans every night, keep reading.

  2. Working the night shift can increase breast cancer risk

    Jobs that can give you cancer

    In today's 24-hour society, someone always has to work the night shift. Try to make sure that someone isn't you -- especially if you're a woman.

    We've known for years now that shift work can boost the risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression, and more for men and women alike. Now, women can add one more risk to that long (and growing) list: breast cancer.

    Women who work at least two nights a week have a 40 percent higher risk of the disease than those who work days, according to new research out of Denmark... and believe it or not, those are actually the lowest numbers in the study.

    The risk doubles in women who work three or more nights for at least six years, and shoots up by 400 percent in women with night jobs who describe themselves as "morning people," according to the study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

    Part of the problem is that shift work itself comes with a bunch of other unhealthy habits. Just try finding a place to get a healthy meal at 2 a.m., and forget finding energy for the gym after spending all night on the job.

    But there's more to it than that.

    Shift work throws your circadian rhythm out of whack, and that alone is a risk factor for disease. Your body also relies on those normal signals of "light" and "dark" to activate "wake" and "rest" functions -- such as the production of the hormone melatonin, which our bodies make at night.

    You may know melatonin as the sleep hormone, but it does so much more than that -- and there's plenty of evidence that it can help protect against cancer.

    And that's a big part of the reason shift work has been linked to cancer before, and not just breast cancer. It's such a widely recognized risk factor for so many cancers that the World Health Organization has listed it as a "probable carcinogen."

    In addition, people who work nights face a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, heart problems, and more.

    Some people work toward a promotion or a pay raise. If you're on the night shift, make it your goal to work toward something that's better than either: Work your way onto the day shift instead.

    Speaking of cancer, I've got some news for those of you who are fighting the disease and need a little help overcoming fatigue.

    Keep reading!

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