New research says if you’re exposed to too much outdoor light at night, you could get the dreaded disease… but the connection seems weak.
Are the street lights on? They may be doing more than just guiding you home. A study done at Harvard’s Pilgrim Health Care Institute has found a link between women’s exposure to artificial light at night and the development of breast cancer.
It does seem like a pretty weird connection, but here’s the evidence. Previous studies have found that if you’re exposed to light at night-like that on your computer screen or a tablet- it could lead your body to produce less melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps you sleep well at night. It keeps your internal body clock ticking on track. So, when you stay up late cruising Facebook, it can actually be harder to fall asleep even if it’s late, as you’ve fooled your body into thinking it’s daylight.
In terms of a cancer risk, researchers have also found that if your body’s day-night cycles get out of whack, this can lead to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
This new study goes one step further and connects the two issues of breast cancer and light. It states that women who are exposed to a lot of outdoor light at night have a 14% increased risk of developing breast cancer, when compared with those who encountered little.
Is it a novel discovery? I’m not an oncologist, but in my humble opinion, no. It should be taken with a grain of salt. First of all, if you’re looking at areas in the world that have a lot of outdoor light at night, you probably mean cities. And cities do cause a lot of light pollution. But the pollution found in the air could be a larger contributor to rising breast cancer rates than that coming from the lights.
In addition to this, this particular study states that the “association between outdoor light at night and breast cancer was found only among women who were premenopausal and those who were current or past smokers.”
Is it surprising that you have a slightly increased risk of developing some kind of cancer, if you smoke? Not really.
The study also found this cancer/light connection to be stronger among women who worked night shifts.
To be honest, the jobs these women are working all night likely don’t involve sitting at a desk being a corporate lawyer, teaching, or managing a bank.
These women are probably busy bending over cleaning grungy offices, vacuuming, getting their hands dirty with toxic cleansers, and standing in poorly ventilated factories on assembly lines, at 3 a.m, piecing together Happy Meal toys.
If you’ve been doing the night shift for a while, your vitamin D levels could be low. Your body clock is way out of rhythm. You may not get enough sleep, ever, and the night shift could be second to a regular job you do in the daytime.
Stress is high, rest is low and over all health can suffer. Having a higher risk of developing breast cancer could, sadly, simply be part of the package these women are forced to live.
Yes, it’s possible that the lights and neon signs on your block are causing you to develop breast cancer.
Here’s an idea, though, Harvard: programs that help people to stop smoking and to get better jobs that pay them enough during daylight hours to survive will likely do more good when it comes to healthy living, than turning off the street lights.
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