WASHINGTON—Breast cancer patients who fasted overnight for less than 13 hours had a significantly higher risk of recurrence compared to patients who fasted for 13 or more hours per night, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology.
“Prolonging the overnight fasting interval may be a simple, non-pharmacological strategy for reducing a person’s risk of breast cancer recurrence and even other cancers,” said lead study author Catherine Marinac, doctoral candidate at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “Previous research has focused on what to eat for cancer prevention, but when we eat may also matter because it appears to affect metabolic health.”
Researchers found that fasting for less than 13 hours per night was associated with significantly less sleep and higher levels of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), a long-term average measure of sugar levels over three months. This is significant because poor sleeping habits and elevated HbA1c have been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.
Previous studies have found that poor blood sugar control was associated with shorter overnight fasting.
Researchers analyzed data from 2,413 non-diabetic breast cancer survivors between the ages of 27 and 70. The data was part of the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living study, a multi-institutional 12-year research study that was followed up for breast cancer recurrence and mortality conducted between 1995 and 2007.
“If future trials confirm that habitual prolonged nightly fasting improves metabolic health, this would be an important discovery in prevention that could reduce the risk of cancers, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” said senior author Ruth Patterson, leader of the cancer prevention program at Moores Cancer Center.
Study authors said that further research was needed to test whether longer overnight fasting reduces the risk of other chronic illnesses.
Featured Image: Rishi Bandopadhay, Flickr Creative Commons