Rotating night-shiftwork and lung cancer risk among female nurses in the United States

Eva S. Schernhammer, Diane Feskanich, Geyu Liang, Jiali Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The risk of lung cancer among night-shift workers is unknown. Over 20 years of follow-up (1988-2008), we documented 1,455 incident lung cancers among 78,612 women in the Nurses' Health Study. To examine the relationship between rotating night-shift work and lung cancer risk, we used multivariate Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for detailed smoking characteristics and other risk factors. We observed a 28% increased risk of lung cancer among women with 15 or more years spent working rotating night shifts (multivariate relative risk (RR) = 1.28, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.07, 1.53; Ptrend = 0.03) compared with women who did not work any night shifts. This association was strongest for small-cell lung carcinomas (multivariate RR = 1.56, 95% CI: 0.99, 2.47; Ptrend = 0.03) and was not observed for adenocarcinomas of the lung (multivariate RR = 0.91, 95% CI: 0.67, 1.24; Ptrend = 0.40). Further, the increased risk associated with 15 or more years of rotating night-shift work was limited to current smokers (RR = 1.61, 95% CI: 1.21, 2.13; Ptrend < 0.001), with no association seen in nonsmokers (P interaction = 0.03). These results suggest that there are modestly increased risks of lung cancer associated with extended periods of night-shift work among smokers but not among nonsmokers. Though it is possible that this observation was residually confounded by smoking, our findings could also provide evidence of circadian disruption as a "second hit" in the etiology of smoking-related lung tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1434-1441
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013


  • Circadian disruption
  • Lung cancer
  • Night work
  • Rotating shift work
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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