People who have their dinner before 9 pm or at least two hours before going to sleep may have a lower risk of developing breast and prostate cancer, a study claims.
The research, published in the International Journal of Cancer, assessed whether meal timing could be associated with risk of breast and prostate cancer, two of the most common cancers worldwide.
Breast and prostate cancers are also among those most strongly associated with night-shift work, circadian disruption and alteration of biological rhythms.
Researchers at Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain assessed each participant's lifestyle and chronotype - an individual attribute correlating with preference for morning or evening activity.
The study included data from 621 cases of prostate cancer and 1,205 cases of breast cancer, as well as 872 male and 1,321 female controls selected randomly from primary health centres.
The participants, who represented various parts of Spain, were interviewed about their meal timing, sleep habits and chronotype and completed a questionnaire on their eating habits and adherence to cancer prevention recommendations.
"Our study concludes that adherence to diurnal eating patterns is associated with a lower risk of cancer," said ISGlobal researcher Manolis Kogevinas, lead author of the study.
The findings "highlight the importance of assessing circadian rhythms in studies on diet and cancer," he added.
If the findings are confirmed, Kogevinas noted, "they will have implications for cancer prevention recommendations, which currently do not take meal timing into account."
"The impact could be especially important in cultures such as those of southern Europe, where people have supper late," he added.