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Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Pattern Disruption Increases Risk of MS with Shift Work

June 8, 2016

Swedish researchers uncovered an association between multiple sclerosis and shift work, which is also associated with cardiovascular disease, thyroid disorders and cancer. It is also associated with ‘disturbed melatonin secretion’ as well as an increase in inflammatory responses that can promote disease.

The research from the conducted study found that those who prior to the age of 20 engaged in off-hour employment are at a greater risk of developing MS as a result of their circadian rhythm disruption.

Data was examined from two population-based studies that compared the occurrence of MS in those who have been exposed to shift work to those that had never been exposed to shift work. Dr. Anna Karin Hedström, the lead researcher, said that their analysis “Revealed a significant association between working shift at a young age and occurrence of MS. Given the association was observed in two independent studies strongly supports a true relationship between shift work and disease risk.”

Those who had worked off-hour shifts for three years or more before the age of 20 had a 2-fold risk of developing MS in comparison to those who never worked shifts. Those who also engaged in shift work in their teens had slightly more than a 2-fold risk of MS than those who had not.

This research suggests that a disruption of a person’s circadian rhythm has the possibility of playing a role in the development of MS but additional research is still required in order to determine the ‘exact underlying mechanisms’.