Shift workers do not develop prostate cancer more frequently than their colleagues who work during the day, according to a study recently published in Dtsch Arztebl International (2015; doi:10.3238/arztebl.2015.0463).

As well as the daily strain of their working lives, shift workers are probably also more likely than other people to develop cancer. Although this has been well described for breast cancer, few studies had previously examined the correlation between shift work and prostate cancer.

Shift work is widespread, approximately 1 in 5 to 1 in 6 of the working population work shifts. The authors evaluated the personnel and health data of almost 28,000 employees of a chemical company in Rhineland-Palatinate between 1995 and 2005. Workers who had worked at least 1 year in a chemical company during those years were included.

Approximately 340 of the workers developed prostate cancer, but these included comparable numbers of shift and day workers. This study therefore contradicts the findings of smaller studies, with fewer participants, on the same subject. However, the authors emphasize that their study was the first to analyze the effect of shift work on prostate cancer including such a large number of participants with well documented data.

“This is the largest cohort study on the risk of prostate cancer in shift and daytime workers to date,” concluded the authors. They also stated the importance of further follow-up of incidence rates in this relatively young population.

The study was led by Gael P. Hammer, DrPH, of the Laboratoire National de Santé in Luxembourg.