In 2010, the International Agency for Research on Cancer under the World Health Organization recognized night shift work that disrupts the circadian rhythm as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” This official recognition of the link between cancer and sleep disruption was a defining moment for Dr. Shobhan Gaddameedhi, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
“Growing up, my grandfather always told me, prevention is better than therapy. I have always been interested in biology, and if I can understand cancer, skin biology, and how they function with our circadian clock, then I can help humanity to prevent cancer,” he tells WSU.
Gaddameedhi has spent more than a decade researching the circadian rhythm and how it impacts factors which raise the risk of cancer and other metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity. His most recent discovery reveals the link between disruptions in the circadian clock to skin cancer.
“One instance of sunburn can double your chances of developing melanoma,” says Gaddameedhi, who published his findings on circadian clock controls on sunburn erythema in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in 2015. A healthy circadian clock and sleep matters too for one’s response to sunlight exposure, according to the latest discovery in Gaddameedhi’s research lab. For example, sun exposure when paired with circadian disruption due to rotating shifts potentially increases the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. A good night’s rest reinforces the body’s ability to defend against DNA damage due to sun exposure. In other words, the time of day that one is exposed to UVB rays can significantly impact the body’s ability to guard against DNA damage.
Gaddameedhi’s research team, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Heart Association, Melanoma Research Alliance, and the Department of Defense, will continue their research on how the circadian clock regulates melanin pigmentation and the skin’s ability to protect against DNA damage from UVB exposure.
Gaddameedhi hopes that his research will provide a window into how simple lifestyle changes through a healthy circadian clock and sleep can help to improve overall health.
“20 million people in the United States do shift work. This is why NIH-funded research predominantly focuses on shift work. However, there are so many people affected by poor sleep due to their circadian clock disruption. This includes nurses, pilots, flight attendants, fire fighters, police, guards, and people who suffer from sleep disorders. If I can understand the link between metabolic disorders, cancer and sleep then I can give this knowledge back to the community,” says Gaddameedhi.