COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Racial differences in the association between night shift work and melatonin levels among women

Parveen Bhatti, Dana K Mirick, Scott Davis
American Journal of Epidemiology 2013 March 1, 177 (5): 388-93
23380044
Reduced suppression of melatonin in response to working the night shift among people of Asian ancestry has been suggested as a possible explanation for the null results observed in a recent analysis of shift work and breast cancer risk in a Chinese cohort. The authors analyzed the impact of Asian versus white race on previously reported differences in urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels in a 2003-2008 study in Seattle, Washington, of female health-care workers that exclusively worked night or day shifts. A total of 225 white and 51 Asian participants were included in the analysis. Although 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels were affected by night shift work in both racial groups, Asian night shift workers consistently showed 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels that were closer to levels in day shift workers than did white night shift workers. Furthermore, differences in 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels between white and Asian night shift workers relative to day shift workers were statistically significant in every instance (P < 0.05). These results suggest that Asians may be better able to maintain a "normal" circadian pattern of melatonin production compared with whites and suggest a biological mechanism by which Asian night shift workers may be at a reduced risk of cancer.

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