If you’re one of the many Americans who come home every night and flip on the light switch, keeping your lights on until you go to bed– you might be headed for an early death.
That’s because having the lights on might be increasing your risk for developing breast cancer.
A new review of scientific literature in the American Cancer Society’s CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians indicates that our everyday use of electric lighting at night leads to the “pandemic of breast cancer,” says the review’s author, Richard G. Stevens, PhD, a professor in the school of medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
Stevens has studied the association between light at night and breast cancer since the 1980s, initially examining the relationship between shift workers and the occurrence of breast cancer. But now, the links are going beyond people who simply work late at night, he declares.
“If light at night or electricity is causing at least part of the breast-cancer pandemic, then shift workers should be at even more risk,” Stevens says. Furthermore, current research indicates that they are. “But other women in the modern world use electricity at night,” he goes on, and there’s increasing proof that something as non-threatening as your overhead lighting could be a problem.
“We know for sure now that light in the evening typical of what people have in their homes delays circadian rhythms by slowing melatonin production,” Stevens concludes. And melatonin has been found to suppress breast cancer tumor growth, at least in animals. It also suppresses linoleic acid levels, which is necessary for breast tumors to thrive. Animal studies have even found that tumors grow quicker in rats when their cycle of 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night is disrupted.
Furthermore, electric light is also understood to wreck cortisol levels, body temperature, and the genes that influence your body’s internal clock. Stevens writes that science is even realizing that exposures to less than 100 lux of electric light will cause your melatonin levels to drop a whopping 50 percent. For comparison’s sake, the average ambient lighting in a room (like that probably found in your living room or bedroom) is 300 lux, with task and reading lamps giving off approximately 500 lux.
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