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The dangers of working at night

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With the advent of call centers, more and more women are taking the graveyard shift, usually working from 6 in the evening to 6 in the morning. But this type of working arrangements poses health risks and can even increase the chance of breast cancer.

According to a study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center based in Seattle , Washington , USA , “Women who work the graveyard shift may face an up to 60 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to those who never worked during night shifts.”

The exposure to light during night may affect the production of melatonin, which is mainly produced by the pineal glands during the night. The same study poses the theory that “nighttime sleep deprivation or exposure to light at night somehow interrupts melatonin production, which in turn stimulates the ovaries to kick out extra estrogen — a known hormonal promoter of breast cancer.”

“Aside from the increase risks of breast cancer, the menstrual cycle of women are also affected by night shifts,” said Noel Colina, Executive Director of Institute for Occupation Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD). “Painful menstruation (Dysmenorrhea), absence of menstruation (Amenorrhea) and heavy menstruation (Menorrhagia) are conditions associated with women taking the graveyard shift.”

According to Colina, this is the reason why pregnant women are not allowed to work during the night because it can adversely affect her health and her baby.

“Although the study isn’t conclusive, it provides us pointers on how to address and protect the occupational health and safety of working women at call centers,” opined Colina. “Companies should provide free and regular breast cancer screening for their employees as well as seminars on how to prevent breast cancer. Regular seminars should also be sponsored by the company promoting health and safety inside the workplace and the formation of health and safety committees.”