A new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health followed 621 people who had prostate cancer and 1,205 who had breast cancer, as well as 872 male and 1,321 female patients without cancer, assessing lifestyle factors like eating habits, bedtime and exercise routines.
They found that cancer patients were more likely to eat later, even after taking into account what they were eating and other health-related habits.
"Our study concludes that adherence to diurnal eating patterns is associated with a lower risk of cancer," explained Manolis Kogevinas, lead author of the study. The findings "highlight the importance of assessing circadian rhythms in studies on diet and cancer."
"They will have implications for cancer prevention recommendations, which currently do not take meal timing into account," he added.
The findings follow several other major studies that have looked the health impacts of shift work and its disruption of circadian and biological rhythms.
One recent study highlighted just how much shift work can impact gut function by throwing the biological processes behind digestion out by 12 hours. This is a factor that could play a significant role in the risk of developing a range of metabolic diseases and gastrointestinal disorders.
"Population-based studies have found that people that eat late at night have higher rates of obesity and worse metabolic profiles," Catherine Marinac, a research fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told CNN. "And in particular, we have found that people that have a longer nightly fasting duration, which might imply less late-night eating, have better blood sugar control and a lower risk of cancer recurrence."
Unfortunately, meal times are often something shift workers can't control. Experts advise that these findings aren't something to stress over, just continue to make the healthiest choices possible when it comes to other lifestyle factors like eating, exercising and sleeping, for example.