The report, in Current Biology, lends weight to concerns about the damaging impact of shift work on health.
The researchers said women with a family risk of breast cancer should never work shifts, but cautioned that further tests in people were needed.
The data also indicated the animals were 20% heavier despite eating the same amount of food.
Studies in people have often suggested a higher risk of diseases such as breast cancer in shift workers and flight attendants.
One argument is disrupting the body’s internal rhythm – or body clock – increases the risk of disease.
However, the link is uncertain because the type of person who works shifts may also be more likely to develop cancer due to factors such as social class, activity levels or the amount of vitamin D they get.
Mice prone to developing breast cancer had their body clock delayed by 12 hours every week for a year.
Normally they had tumours after 50 weeks – but with regular disruption to their sleeping patterns, the tumours appeared eight weeks earlier.
The report said: “This is the first study that unequivocally shows a link between chronic light-dark inversions and breast cancer development.”
Interpreting the consequences for humans is fraught with difficulty, but the researchers guesstimated the equivalent effect could be an extra 10kg (1st 8lb) of body weight or for at-risk women getting cancer about five years earlier.