Thursday, June 11, 2009

Insomnia for Cancer

Staying up late slows the disease's progress.

I wish that was the case. It seems like the press release from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a bit of a tease in that respect. The title indicates that messing with your circadian clock can stop cancer growth.

It actually sounds kind of inconclusive to me. Original studies showed that nurses and flight attendants who messed up their circadian rhythm (the way their bodies tell night from day, usually because they were working through the night) ended up with higher rates of cancer. So scientists concluded that messing up your circadian clock by keeping odd hours gives you cancer.

Now it looks like actually messing with your genes, and restructuring the biological cells of your body to change the circadian clock can slow down cancer. They altered the genes of some mice and found that they lived longer. So staying up late is still a bad idea, cancer-wise, but they're trying to find better ways of altering the way your cells tell what time it is.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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