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Analysis of polymorphisms in the circadian-related genes and breast cancer risk in Norwegian nurses working night shifts

Shanbeh Zienolddiny1*, Aage Haugen1, Jenny-Anne Sigstad Lie2, Helge Kjuus2, Kristine Haugen Anmarkrud1 and Kristina Kjærheim3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemical and Biological Work Environment, National Institute of Occupational Health, PB 8149 Department, N-0033 Oslo, Norway

2 Department of Occupational Medicine and Epidemiology, National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway

3 Cancer Registry of Norway, Institute of Population-based Cancer Research, Oslo, Norway

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Breast Cancer Research 2013, 15:R53  doi:10.1186/bcr3445

Published: 3 July 2013



Some studies have suggested that night work may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in nurses. We aimed to explore the role of circadian gene polymorphisms in the susceptibility to night work-related breast cancer risk.


We conducted a nested case-control study of Norwegian nurses comprising 563 breast cancer cases and 619 controls within a cohort of 49,402 Norwegian nurses ages 35 to 74 years. We studied 60 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 17 genes involved in the regulation of the circadian rhythm in cases and controls. The data were analyzed in relation to the two exposure variables "maximum number of consecutive night shifts ever worked" and "maximum number of consecutive night shifts worked for at least 5 years." The odds of breast cancer associated with each SNP was calculated in the main effects analysis and in relation to night shift work. The statistically significant odds ratios were tested for noteworthiness using two Bayesian tests: false positive report probability (FPRP) and Bayesian false discovery probability (BFDP).


In the main effects analysis, CC carriers of rs4238989 and GG carriers of rs3760138 in the AANAT gene had increased risk of breast cancer, whereas TT carriers of BMAL1 rs2278749 and TT carriers of CLOCK rs3749474 had reduced risk. The associations were found to be noteworthy using both the FPRP and BFDP tests. With regard to the effect of polymorphisms and night work, several significant associations were observed. After applying FPRP and BFDP in women with at least four night shifts, an increased risk of breast cancer was associated with variant alleles of SNPs in the genes AANAT (rs3760138, rs4238989), BMAL1 (rs2290035, rs2278749, rs969485) and ROR-b (rs3750420). In women with three consecutive night shifts, a reduced risk of breast cancer was associated with carriage of variant alleles of SNPs in CLOCK (rs3749474), BMAL1 (rs2278749), BMAL2 (rs2306074), CSNK1E (rs5757037), NPAS2 (rs17024926), ROR-b (rs3903529, rs3750420), MTNR1A (rs131113549) and PER3 (rs1012477).


Significant and noteworthy associations between several polymorphisms in circadian genes, night work and breast cancer risk were found among nurses who had worked at least three consecutive night shifts.

Breast cancer; Circadian; Clock; Night shift; SNP