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Shift work and high PSA are related, according to studies. The hours and times you work can elevate your PSA level. Researchers found that compared to men who work traditional schedules, men who work the night shift or who work rotating shifts are more likely to have an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Researchers concluded that disruption of men’s sleep or their circadian rhythm is associated with a higher PSA.
Researchers aren’t sure how these factors lead to an elevated PSA, but it could be related to prolonged exposure to artificial light or hormonal changes related to changes in circadian rhythm. Elevated PSA is an indicator of prostate cancer, but a high PSA does not mean that prostate cancer is present. Nevertheless these findings do indicate that shift work and high PSA could increase a man’s risk for prostate cancer.
Erin E Flynn-Evans, PhD, and fellow researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (which was conducted from 2005 to 2010). They found that compared to men who did not do shift work, the shift-working men had 2.6 times the risk of an elevated PSA of 4.0 ng/ml or greater. This risk was after confounders were adjusted. The findings have been published online before appearing in print in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The increase risk of higher PSA was also found in a 2006 study of shift work and high PSA among Japanese rotating-shift workers. The prospective cohort study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that rotating shift-workers had three times the risk of prostate cancer. The researchers adjusted for family history of prostate cancer, age, and other confounders.
What is elevated PSA?
Prostate-specific antigen is a protein that is produced by prostate gland cells to help keep semen liquid so sperm can swim. It is measured by a blood test. Prostate cancer is not the only prostate condition associated with an elevated PSA. Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) and prostatitis are two other common prostate conditions associated with an elevated PSA level. If your job requires shift work, you may want to keep an eye on your PSA level to help you stay aware of your prostate health.
Flynn-Evans EE. Shiftwork and prostate-specific antigen in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 105(17): 1292-97
Kubo T et al. Industry-based retrospective cohort study of the risk of prostate cancer among rotating-shift workers. International Journal of Urology 2011 Mar; 18(3): 206-11