Eating dinner before 9 pm could cut your risk of breast and prostate cancer by a fifth.
Sitting down to an evening meal at least two hours before going to bed also reportedly reduces the chances of getting both cancers, a study of more than 4,000 people suggests.
Experts believe eating late at night causes inflammation in the body and alters blood sugar levels, both linked to cancer.
Evolutionarily, humans are hard-wired to eat when it is light and digest food before going to sleep in the darkness.
But modern life, with late working hours and long commuting times, means many people have got into the habit of eating late.
The findings of the study
- Researchers led by Barcelona Institute for Global Health found eating before 9 pm, compared to having an evening meal after 10 pm, cuts the risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women by 18 per cent.
- Leaving more than two hours before dinner and bedtime, compared to sleeping soon after eating, slashes the odds of both cancers by 20 per cent.
- Dr Manolis Kogevinas, who led the study says: "People already know that if they eat late and go to bed soon afterwards that they will not metabolise their food and won't get a good night's sleep.
- There is evidence that people who disrupt sleeping patterns by working night shifts, are at greater risk of prostate and breast cancer, although not all studies agree.
- The Spanish researchers asked more than 1,800 people with prostate and breast cancer, and more than 2,000 healthy people about the timings of their meals and sleeping habits.
- People who ate more than two hours before going to bed were 26 per cent less likely to have prostate cancer and 16 per cent less likely to have breast cancer.
Cancer Research UK's Fiona Osgunsaid says: "Unfortunately, this small study doesn't add much to the picture as it didn't take into account other things we know can affect cancer risk, like drinking alcohol."
The Daily Mail