Monday, February 25, 2008

Higher Rates of Breast Cancer Linked to Nighttime Lights

The Washington Post published a story last week reporting on the work of researchers in Israel. The scientists "overlaid satellite images of Earth onto cancer registries" and found that women who live in neighborhoods that have a lot of nighttime light, or those who work the graveyard shift, such as nurses and flight attendants, have a greater risk for breast cancer - as much as 60 percent higher. The key may be a lack of melatonin which is produced primarily at night; however, production of melatonin drops when light is present, especially light on the blue end of the spectrum, such as that from computer screens and fluorescent lights.


Mike Rhode said...

Apparently we need to reconfigure the layout slightly - this comment belongs in this thread:

BrainyGirl said...

Very interesting stuff. I wonder how much of a risk reduction we would see if night workers started taking melatonin supplements.

Kathleen Stocker said...

Good question, and it's addressed in the article: "In keeping with the melatonin hypothesis, mice in cages with night lighting have normal cancer rates if they get shots of the hormone. And blind women, whose eyes cannot detect light and so have robust production of melatonin, have lower-than-average breast cancer rates."

Like you, I think this is really interesting.