As well as the daily strain of their working lives, shift workers are probably also more likely than other people to develop cancer. While this has been well described for breast cancer, few studies had examined the correlation between shift work and prostate cancer. In a recent original article in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztbl Int 112: 463-70), Gael P. Hammer et al. show that shift workers do not develop prostate cancer more frequently than their colleagues who work during the day.
Shift work is widespread: between approximately one in five and one in six of the working population work shifts. The authors evaluated the personnel and health data of almost 28 000 employees of a chemical company in Rhineland-Palatinate between 1995 and 2005. Some 340 developed prostate cancer, but these included comparable numbers of shift and day workers. This article therefore contradicts the findings of smaller studies, with fewer participants, on the same subject. However, the authors emphasize that their study was the first to analyze the effect of shift work on prostate cancer including such a large number of participants with well documented data.