Denmark compensates night workers after breast cancer link

COPENHAGEN (AFP) — Thirty-seven women in Denmark have won the right to compensation after claiming that their breast cancer was linked to their long-term night shift work, the National Board of Industrial Injuries said Tuesday.

The state-run agency received 75 applications for compensation in 2008, of which "37 were considered to be founded, entitling the applicants to compensation," spokeswoman Birgitte Lynhe told AFP.

The amount of compensation paid out varied from case to case, and was financed by the employers' insurance, she said.

In the 37 cases, there were no other significant factors that might explain the development of breast cancer.

Night shift work is believed to cause disturbed sleep, fatigue and digestive problems, among other things.

Scientific studies have shown that sleep disruption can cause the body to produce less melatonin, which can help prevent cancer.

Denmark decided in November 2007 to consider financial compensation for the women after Danish and international studies "showed possible links between night work over a period of 20 to 30 years and breast cancer," Lynhe said.

The Scandinavian country is now considering classifying breast cancer as an occupational illness.

"Denmark will decide whether the effects of night-shift work should be included on the list of occupational diseases," according to Anne Lind Madsen, director of the National Board of Industrial Injuries.

Lynhe said the agency was waiting for a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer on recent studies on the subject.

"If they confirm the correlation between breast cancer and night shift work, we will consider putting the effects of night work on the list of work-related illnesses," she said.

In 2001, a study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research revealed that night shift work could increase the risk of breast cancer by up to 60 percent.


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