Over the last 25 years, there has been a gradual increase in the number of people who undertake shift work in the UK, with around 5 – 20% of the working population now engaged in shift work that involves night work. This equates to 3-6 million workers. There is an emerging body of evidence that shift work, and night work in particular, is linked with the development of breast cancer but further work to confirm this causal link is still being undertaken.
Estimates from the cancer burden study show that there are around 550 deaths each year from breast cancer in women who undertake shift work.
Initiatives that have been undertaken to raise awareness of the dangers of shift work include:
- Guidance developed by HSE for employers to help them manage shift work
- HSE funded research to study the relationship between shift work and chronic disease.
By registering, information on these and other initiatives are available on the Occupational Disease community site.
Additional information on managing shift work patterns is available on HSE’s human factors web pages.