Ro­tat­ing work shifts are hard on body

The Tribune (SLO) - - Sports & Classified Classifieds - BY EVE GLAZIER, M.D., and ELIZ­A­BETH KO, M.D.

Hello dear read­ers, and wel­come to our first let­ters col­umn of spring. We hope you’re en­joy­ing the length­en­ing days and are re­cov­er­ing from the jolt of los­ing an hour to Day­light Sav­ing Time.

Speak­ing of which, we re­ceived mail re­gard­ing a re­cent col­umn about the neg­a­tive health ef­fects of night shift work. These in­clude fa­tigue, de­pres­sion, cog­ni­tive lapses and an in­creased risk of heart dis­ease, di­a­betes and cer­tain can­cers. This arises from the dis­rup­tion of the cir­ca­dian rhythm, or in­ter­nal clock, which reg­u­lates our bi­o­log­i­cal pro­cesses. Our in­ter­nal clock over­sees phys­i­o­log­i­cal func­tions at the molec­u­lar level, in­clud­ing cell re­gen­er­a­tion, immune re­sponse and hor­mone pro­duc­tion, and re­search shows no amount of ex­tra sleep can “fix” cir­ca­dian mis­align­ment.

A reader from Port Neches, Texas, asked about ro­ta­tional shift work, which is when day shifts and night shifts are in­ter­spersed. Although he had been com­fort­able work­ing a sus­tained night shift sched­ule, he was re­cently as­signed alternating sets of day and night shifts. “Shift­ing back and forth be­tween days and nights leaves me fa­tigued,” he writes. The an­swer is that ro­ta­tional shift work, whether on a daily, weekly or even monthly sched­ule, makes the ad­verse phys­i­cal ef­fects of night shift work even worse. The cir­ca­dian cy­cle is a pow­er­ful force, and our bod­ies never truly make peace with liv­ing out­side of its nat­u­ral rhythms. Any ad­just­ments we are able to make take place only grad­u­ally, and over time. This means with each switch to a new sched­ule, our bod­ies start from scratch to make the slow ad­just­ment. When work sched­ules change too of­ten, our bod­ies just can’t catch up.

A reader who has been treated twice for basal cell car­ci­noma on her nose now uses an SPF 50 sun­screen with a high zinc ox­ide percentage. “I ap­ply it ev­ery day, re­gard­less of the weather – whether clear and sunny or cloudy and over­cast,” she writes. “But my weather app fre­quently shows a UV in­dex of zero or 1. Does this mean I do not need to wear sun­screen?”

Please, do keep slather­ing on the sun­screen. A UV In­dex of zero to 2 means that for the av­er­age per­son, dan­ger from the sun’s UV rays is low. How­ever, for those who burn eas­ily or have had skin cancer, a full-spec­trum sun­screen of at least SPF 30 is rec­om­mended.

In good news for your wal­let, a re­cent study by food sci­en­tists at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis found no sig­nif­i­cant nu­tri­tional dif­fer­ences be­tween fresh and frozen fruit and vegeta­bles.

Send your ques­tions to ask­the­do­c­[email protected] med­, or write: Ask the Doc­tors, c/o Media Re­la­tions, UCLA Health, 924 West­wood Blvd., Suite 350, Los An­ge­les, CA, 90095. Ow­ing to the vol­ume of mail, per­sonal replies can­not be pro­vided.

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