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Cancer FAQs

Q: What evidence do we have that controlling light at night can cut the risk of cancer?

12/26/2007
Long Answer:
Most of us are skeptics. How much evidence do we really have that using light at night is increasing the risk of cancer? Our objective here is to carefully look at that evidence. Among the most convincing pieces of evidence are the studies of the effect of long days and short nights done with animals. The hours of light and dark are abbreviated (LD), e.g. (16:8) is 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness. Because the reader may want to go to www.pubmed.gov to look up these abstracts, we have given the year and the author’s last name and first initials to help locate the article.
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Q: Are women especially at risk?

A: Unfortunately, they are. There is a growing body of evidence that the increasing rate of breast cancer may be associated with blue light. It involves the hormones melatonin and estrogen. Estrogen is known to promote tumor growth, but is moderated by melatonin. Blue lights, however, suppress the secretion of melatonin, an anti-oxidant.

Q: How does it work?

A: Melatonin, produced by the pineal gland, is more present at night, and promotes sleep. Light sensors in the human eye are connected to the pineal gland, and when they receive light, especially blue light, they cause the gland to stop producing melatonin.

Q: What does the medical community think about the dangers of blue light?

A: While leading lighting specialists have long suspected a possible link between blue light and cancer, the American medical community is unlikely to completely embrace the idea until it has been proven by peer-reviewed clinical studies. But there has, nevertheless, been plenty of intriguing university-based research conducted on this topic all around the world. You can sample some of it by clicking on our research areas in both the sleep and cancer sections.

Q: What other hard evidence do we have that blue light promotes cancer?

A: It’s a well-known fact in medical circles that blind women have a lower incidence of cancer than their sighted counterparts, and that women who work evening shifts (and are thus exposed to light when others are sleeping) have a markedly higher rate of the disease than those who don’t.

Q: I work night shift. What can I do to protect myself?

A: To maximize pineal hormones you should sleep in a really dark room or wear an eye shield. When you are not sleeping you might use blue blocking glasses and/or use LowBlueLights after dark until it is time to go to work. You might catch some sunlight before you go to bed.

Q: Should I wear glasses that block the blue light all day and use LowBlueLights all evening?

A. The best plan may be to have ordinary light in the morning (including about 15 minutes of sunlight, if possible, to get some vitamin D) and cut off the ordinary light after perhaps 8 – 12 hours of exposure by putting on blue blocking eyeglasses and/or using LowBlueLights after dark. This gives 12 – 16 hours when the cancer fighting hormones can do their work.

Q: Will using these products help with other forms of cancer besides breast cancer?

Answer: The hormones produced by the pineal gland are effective in combating many different types of cancer that occur in both men and women. The idea is to make these hormones available a bigger fraction of each day.