Late-Night Snacking May Be A Risk Factor For Breast Cancer

Posted on: 12 April 2016


When looking for a nondrug treatment to reduce your risk of breast cancer, you should know that giving up those late-night snacks may be a factor in breast cancer prevention. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology suggests that going without eating for fewer than 13 hours at night may be linked to an increased risk in breast cancer recurrence.

Your dietary habits may be something to discuss with your gynecologist when you schedule your annual gynecological and clinical breast exams. By explaining how certain of your lifestyle habits can increase your cancer risk, your doctor can help guide you toward preventive interventions.

What Researchers Think

Researchers speculate that sleeping longer and fasting for more hours at night can have positive effects on your health. Not only may it help lower the risk of breast and other cancers, but practicing these good lifestyle habits may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although the study was based on self-reported data, women who went fewer than 13 hours between eating dinner or snacking in the evening and breakfast in the morning had a 36 percent higher risk of breast cancer recurrence than women who did not eat anything for 13 hours or more each night.

What Happens

Late-night eating habits may interfere with how your body regulates blood sugar levels. Previous studies found that shorter overnight fasts can contribute to poor blood sugar control. Higher HbA1c along with getting less sleep have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer while longer periods of overnight fasting are linked to lower levels of HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) in the blood – a condition that indicates your blood sugar is at a healthy level.

Why It Happens

Eating late at night can lead to poorer quality sleep. When you eat too close to bedtime, it revs up your metabolism so that food digestion can take place. As a result, those late-night raids on the refrigerator or consuming large meals in the evening can keep you from falling asleep as your body works to digest what you eat.

How much sleep you get plays a role in your body's metabolism as well. Since getting adequate sleep is important in maintaining normal blood sugar levels, the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to have elevated blood sugar levels.

What It All Means

While more research is needed, the findings of several studies suggest that women with high blood sugar may be at increased risk of developing cancer. For example, the results of a study previously published in Diabetes Care found that breast cancer was more common in women – particularly those younger than age 49 – who had high blood sugar levels than in women of the same age who had lower blood glucose levels.

Although no studies to date prove that lack of sleep and high blood glucose cause breast cancer or other cancers directly, research suggests there may be a link between these factors. What doctors and researchers do know is that healthy lifestyle choices lowers your risk of developing cancer and other chronic diseases.