New research suggests that some women who indulge in late-night eating could be, unknowingly, increasing their risk for breast cancer.
From 2012 to 2015 researchers in Hong Kong interviewed 922 female breast cancer patients and asked them about their eating habits. The researchers then compared their responses to those of 913 hospital patients who had never been diagnosed with cancer.
What they ultimately discovered was a possible link between the late-night eating of certain foods and breast cancer. The link was only seen in women who ate what the researchers called “staple” foods and women who had a body mass index, or BMI, greater than 25.
What does all this mean? Well, it means that for women who have what doctors call a normal BMI–from about 18 to about 25–nighttime eating did not seem to be a factor. For women who were overweight or obese the link to cancer was “significant”.
The kind of food the women ate was also a factor. Women who snacked on fruits and vegetables saw no increased risk but women who ate carbohydrate-rich foods, meats and dairy did.
All known risk factors, like a history of shift work, a family of history of cancer and other factors were accounted for.
How Late-Night Eating Could Contribute To Breast Cancer
The past research linking late-night eating to certain types of cancers has produced conflicting results. But if there is a link, researchers theorize that it is related to how nighttime eating affects certain hormones, like melatonin and cortisol.
For women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer, the evidence is a bit stronger. A 2016 JAMA Oncology paper, for example, found that women who went at least 13 hours without eating overnight were significantly less likely to develop new tumors than women who did not.
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