Women who eat foods containing lots of carbohydrates late at night have a greater risk of developing breast cancer, according to a study by Chinese University in Hong Kong published Tuesday. The risk of women developing breast cancer increases by 50 percent if they consume food after 10 p.m. at least once a week for over a year, researchers found.
Although the study's main author Shelly Tse Lap-ah, an associate professor at Chinese University’s school of public health, told the South China Morning Post, that a direct link between late night snacking and breast cancer was not identified definitively, she said her research reinforced previous studies revealing that the late night habit causes the body to reduce its production of melatonin, which is the chemical produced in the brain responsible for protecting the body against aging. When the body ages its immune system weakens significantly, causing it to become more susceptible to getting diseases.
“If we eat late at night, our biological clock might reset and the (endocrine system) could be disruptive” Shelly Tse Lap-ah, associate professor at the university’s school of public health, told the South China Morning Post. “Chronic disease could be caused if production of melatonin is suppressed.”
Forcing the body to stay awake at night can lead to obesity and diabetes, which are considered to be primary factors that can lead to cancer, Dr. Francis Chow Chun-chung, head of Chinese University’s division of endocrinology, told the South China Morning Post.
“Obesity and diabetes are known to be related to many types of cancer, including breast, prostate and liver,” Chow said.
After surveying roughly 1,800 women from three public hospitals in Hong Kong between 2012 and 2015, researchers found that the risk of developing breast cancer was 1.79 times higher among women who ate noodles late after 10 p.m. and 1.58 greater for those who ate rice late at night. The study, however, found that eating fruits or vegetables did not lead to a greater risk of developing breast cancer.
Researchers found that the most dangerous times for women to eat at night was between midnight and 2 a.m., when women were 1.7 times more likely to be at risk of getting breast cancer.
Breast cancer was the most common cancer among women in the U.S. and the entire world, the World Cancer Research Fund International said. Roughly 230,800 American women and 2,000 men in the were diagnosed with the disease in 2013, while approximately 40,900 women and 460 men died from it that year, according to Center for Disease Control And Prevention report on data taken between 2009 and 2013.