To examine the effects of past and current night shift work and genetic type 2 diabetes vulnerability on type 2 diabetes odds.
In the UK Biobank, we examined associations of current (N = 272,214) and lifetime (N = 70,480) night shift work exposure with type 2 diabetes risk (6,770 and 1,191 prevalent cases, respectively). For 180,704 and 44,141 unrelated participants of European ancestry (4,002 and 726 cases, respectively) with genetic data, we assessed whether shift work exposure modified the relationship between a genetic risk score (comprising 110 single-nucleotide polymorphisms) for type 2 diabetes and prevalent diabetes.
Compared with day workers, all current night shift workers were at higher multivariable-adjusted odds for type 2 diabetes (none or rare night shifts: odds ratio [OR] 1.15 [95% CI 1.05–1.26]; some nights: OR 1.18 [95% CI 1.05–1.32]; and usual nights: OR 1.44 [95% CI 1.19–1.73]), except current permanent night shift workers (OR 1.09 [95% CI 0.93–1.27]). Considering a person’s lifetime work schedule and compared with never shift workers, working more night shifts per month was associated with higher type 2 diabetes odds (<3/month: OR 1.24 [95% CI 0.90–1.68]; 3–8/month: OR 1.11 [95% CI 0.90–1.37]; and >8/month: OR 1.36 [95% CI 1.14–1.62]; Ptrend = 0.001). The association between genetic type 2 diabetes predisposition and type 2 diabetes odds was not modified by shift work exposure.
Our findings show that night shift work, especially rotating shift work including night shifts, is associated with higher type 2 diabetes odds and that the number of night shifts worked per month appears most relevant for type 2 diabetes odds. Also, shift work exposure does not modify genetic risk for type 2 diabetes, a novel finding that warrants replication.