Sleep duration and cancer risk in women



The objective was to conduct an analysis of sleep duration and risk of selected site-specific and groups of cancer among a large prospective cohort of California women.


The study population was comprised of 101,609 adult females participating in the California Teachers Study. All sites of invasive cancer prospectively diagnosed from baseline (1995–1996) through 2011 were identified through linkage to the California Cancer Registry (n = 12,322). Site-specific analyses focused on the following cancers: breast (n = 5,053), colorectal (n = 983), lung (n = 820), melanoma (n = 749), and endometrial (n = 957). Additionally, we evaluated a group of estrogen-mediated cancers consisting of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer (n = 6,458). Sleep duration was based on self-report of average time sleeping in the year prior to baseline. Cox proportional hazard models were used to calculate adjusted hazard ratios and 95 % confidence intervals (HRs, 95 % CI).


Point estimates for all sites and site-specific cancers generally were near or below one for short sleepers (<6 h/night) and above one for long sleepers (10+ h/night); confidence intervals, however, were wide and included unity. Compared to average sleepers (7–9 h/night), long sleepers had an increased risk of the group of estrogen-mediated cancers (HR 1.22, 95 % CI 0.97–1.54, p (trend) = 0.04).


These analyses suggest that longer sleep may be associated with increased risks of estrogen-mediated cancers. Further studies with more refined measures of sleep duration and quality are warranted.

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This research was supported by funds provided by The Regents of the University of California, California Breast Cancer Research Program (Grant Number 16IB-0071) and National Cancer Institute Grants R01 CA77398 and K05 CA136967. The opinions, findings, and conclusions herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Regents of the University of California, or any of its programs. The collection of cancer incidence data used in this study was supported by the California Department of Public Health as part of the statewide cancer reporting program mandated by California Health and Safety Code Section 103885; the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program under contract HHSN261201000036C awarded to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, contract HHSN261201000035C awarded to the University of Southern California, and contract HHSN261201000034C awarded to the Public Health Institute; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Program of Cancer Registries, under agreement #1U58 DP000807-01 awarded to the Public Health Institute. The ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and endorsement by the State of California Department of Public Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or their Contractors and Subcontractors is not intended nor should be inferred. We express our appreciation to all the participants in the California Teachers Study and to the researchers, analysts, and staff who have contributed so much for the success of this research project. We also thank Minhthu Le for administrative support, and the California Teachers Study Steering Committee members who are responsible for the formation and maintenance of the cohort within which this study was conducted but who did not directly contribute to the current paper: Hoda Anton-Culver, Jessica Clague, Christina A. Clarke, Dennis Deapen, Pam Horn-Ross, James V. Lacey Jr, Yani Lu, Huiyan Ma, Susan L. Neuhausen, Hannah Park, Rich Pinder, Fredrick Schumacher, Sophia S. Wang, and Argyrios Ziogas.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Susan Hurley.

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Hurley, S., Goldberg, D., Bernstein, L. et al. Sleep duration and cancer risk in women. Cancer Causes Control 26, 1037–1045 (2015).

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  • Sleep duration
  • Cancer
  • Risk factors
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Prospective cohort