Nighttime eating and breast cancer among Chinese women in Hong Kong

Eating at nighttime may have several metabolic consequences that are highly relevant to breast cancer. This study investigated the association between nighttime eating habits after 10 p.m. and breast cancer in Hong Kong women.

A hospital-based case-control study was conducted during 2012–2015. A total of 922 patients with incident breast cancer (cases) and 913 hospital controls were recruited and interviewed using a standard questionnaire including information on eating behavior during both daytime and nighttime. We collected the timing, duration, types and frequencies of food intake of eating at nighttime. Odds ratios (ORs) for the risk of breast cancer in relation to nighttime eating-related variables were calculated by unconditional multivariable logistic regression.

Results

Eating at night after 10 pm was significantly associated with breast cancer with an adjusted OR of 1.50 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06–2.12, P = 0.02), and the associations were stronger in women who had the longest duration of nighttime eating (≥20 years) (adjusted OR = 2.28 (95% CI 1.13–4.61, P = 0.02) and who ate late (midnight to 2 a.m.) (adjusted OR = 2.73, 95% CI 1.01–6.99, P = 0.04). Interestingly, nighttime eating was only associated with breast cancer among women who consumed staple foods (OR = 2.16, 95% CI 1.42–3.29, P < 0.001) but not those who ate vegetables or fruits as nighttime meals. The significant association between nighttime eating and breast cancer was observed among women with body mass index (BMI) <25 (OR = 2.29, 95% CI 1.48–3.52, P < 0.001) but not among women with BMI ≥25.

Conclusions

Results from this study suggest a possible association between nighttime eating behavior and breast cancer. These findings need to be confirmed by independent large studies.