night workers

New study suggests that shift workers may need melatonin supplements to allow their DNA to repair itself

Night shift work has displayed the potential to stop the body repairing daily damage to DNA and raises the risk of mutations which can lead to cancer, suggests a study.

US researchers have discovered that when people work nights they produce 80% less of a chemical which is a by-product of DNA tissue repair, reports the Telegraph. They continued to explain that the body does not carry out the crucial restoration to cells which should occur naturally overnight.

Some believe this effect could be a result of a lack of melatonin, the sleep hormone, which is far lower among people who sleep in the daytime.

If awake at night the body has ‘reduced capacity to repair and clear oxidative DNA damage’, explained Dr Parveen Bhatti, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle, Washington, USA.

“Over time, this accumulation would likely increase the risk of cancer across multiple sites as has been observed among shift workers,” she continued.

The study tested 50 night shift workers for levels of 8-OH-dG – a chemical which is produced when DNA is repaired. They then tested them again when they were working days, and found levels jumped by 300%.

They believe that shift workers may need to take sleep hormone supplements to allow DNA to carry out repairs as they sleep in the day.

“If such effects are confirmed, melatonin supplementation should be explored as an intervention to reduce the occurrence of potentially carcinogenic DNA damage among shift workers,” concluded Dr Bhatti.