Chronodisruption and cancer

Thomas C. Erren, H. Gerd Pape, Russel J. Reiter, Claus Piekarski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Research into health effects of chronodisruption (CD), a relevant disturbance of the circadian organization of physiology, endocrinology, metabolism and behaviour, is evolving at a rapid pace. With regard to malignancies, our synthesis of key experiments indicates that CD can play a causal role for cancer growth and tumor progression in animals. Moreover, our meta-analyses of 30 epidemiological studies evince that flight personnel and shift workers exposed to chronodisruption may have increased breast and prostate cancer risks: summary relative risks (RRs) for investigations of flight personnel and of shift workers suggested a 70 and 40% increase in the risk of breast cancer, respectively, and excess relative risks of prostate cancer in nine studies in flight personnel (40%) and in two studies in male shift workers. There was a remarkable indication of homogeneity of results from the individual studies that contribute to the average statistics. However, in view of doubts about whether the differing assessments of CD can really be regarded as valid reflections of the same causative phenomenon and the lack of control of covariates in the majority of studies, it is premature to conclude that the risk observations reflect a real, rather than spurious, association with CD. The challenge for future epidemiological investigations of the biologically plausible links between chronodisruption and human cancers is to conduct studies which appreciate details of transmeridian travelling, of shift work and of covariates for the development of the diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-382
Number of pages16
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Breast cancer
  • Chronodisruption
  • Prostate cancer
  • Shift work
  • Time zone travel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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