Compared to those who have supper after 10 pm or those who go to bed right after the meal, people who take their evening meal before 9 pm or wait at least two hours before going to sleep have approximately 20 per cent lower risk of those types of cancers, the findings showed.
“Our study concludes that adherence to diurnal eating patterns is associated with a lower risk of cancer,” said lead author Manolis Kogevinas from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain.
“The findings highlight the importance of assessing circadian rhythms in studies on diet and cancer,” Kogevinas added.
For the study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, the team analysed data from 621 cases of prostate cancer and 1,205 cases of breast cancer, as well as 872 male and 1,321 female controls.
The participants were interviewed about their meal timing, sleep habits and chronotype — an individual attribute correlating with the preference for morning or evening activity.
The participants also completed a questionnaire on their eating habits and adherence to cancer prevention recommendations.
The researchers found that cancer patients were more likely to have dinner late at night.
Breast and prostate cancers are also among those most strongly associated with night-shift work, circadian disruption and alteration of biological rhythms.
The research suggests that long-term late-night snacking may have the similar effect to night-shift work and circadian disruption.
“If the findings are confirmed, they will have implications for cancer prevention recommendations, which currently do not take meal timing into account,” Kogevinas noted.