Don’t forget to turn out the light!
While remembering to shut off your household appliances may not prevent breast cancer, studies have shown that light at night plays a much more prominent role than any of us ever thought.
So, does light at night really have that much of an impact on the fight against breast cancer? Allow us to shed some light on the situation.
A Light in the Dark – The Facts about Light Pollution and Cancer
Cancer can be the result of so many different factors, but something as simple as exposure to light at night can have a drastic effect on the likelihood of developing breast cancer, as well as the effectiveness of treatments according to recent studies.
So, what exactly is going on here? These same studies show that women who may work third-shift jobs at night – the police officers, factory workers, doctors, and nurses among us – have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to those that work during the day.
It’s not just employment that impacts this either – women who live in areas with high levels of external light at night (aka light pollution) also have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. So could light pollution as a whole really be a contributing factor to breast cancer?
According to a study completed at the University of Connecticut, that’s exactly the case. The study, completed by epidemiologist Richard Stevens and colleagues, showed that higher population-weighted country-level LAN (light at night) levels were associated with higher instances of breast cancer.
In fact, a sensitivity test performed in the same study indicated a 30-50 percent increased risk of breast cancer in those countries with the highest versus lowest LAN levels.
It’s clear that light at night can increase your risk of developing breast cancer, but what’s the reasoning behind it?
Sleeping with Lights on While Fighting Cancer
At first glance, it seems silly to suggest that light can actually impact whether or not breast cancer develops in people – but there is science behind the theory.
It all has to do with light, and how exposure to it impacts your body’s melatonin levels and production. Of course, Melatonin is that wonderful hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycles – some even use it as a supplement to help induce sleep if they suffer from insomnia.
Basically, melatonin levels are at their highest at night and lowest during the day – when your eyes register light exposure. Being exposed to light sources at night when your body is accustomed to receiving that burst of melatonin can have an impact on your constant levels.
In the case of prolonged exposure to LAN, melatonin levels tend to stay at their lowest. This is a problem, and it’s not just because you’ll have trouble falling asleep.
Melatonin by itself actually helps delay the formation of tumors and slows their growth. Higher melatonin levels at night essentially put breast cancer cells to sleep by turning off these growth mechanisms.
The bigger risk here is how these lower levels of melatonin impact the body’s response to Tamoxifen, a commonly used breast cancer drug. This exposure to light at night renders the body completely unresponsive to Tamoxifen, making treatment extremely difficult. In essence, melatonin seems to be vital in the effectiveness of breast cancer treatment.
The Best Steps to Take in Fight Against Breast Cancer
Despite all of this, there are many steps we can take to help ensure our bodies are producing adequate amounts of melatonin. Of course, each individual varies, and the best course of action regarding treatment can be had by discussing options with your doctor.
While it’s not entirely clear how much darkness is actually needed to help stimulate melatonin production, here are some of the most successful strategies we’ve seen people employ:
1. Install Blackout Shades – Blackout shades are effective at doing exactly what they sound like – keeping light out and shrouding your room in total darkness. These are an effective ally in combating LAN.
2. Don’t Turn on the Lights – We don’t mean always and forever, but limit flipping the switch at night if you can help it.
2. Use Low Wattage Light Bulbs – If you find yourself having to use a light at night, or if you frequently sleep with a nightlight, it’s best to switch out the default bulbs for some low wattage options. This will keep the brightness to a minimum while still lighting the way.
3. Sleep With a Mask – You can find a useful eye mask at a multitude of different stores – it’ll be a useful ally in your fight against blocking out light pollution at night.
4. Adhere to Sleep Times – When it’s time for bed, it’s time for bed. Be sure to turn off all lights, computer screens, televisions, cell phones, and really any electronic that can generate light. It’s also wise to avoid watching television or working on the computer right before bed.
Whatever the case may be, you’ve got options. Utilizing these helpful strategies will go a long way in reducing your risk and optimizing any existing treatments.
We at CamWell botanicals are committed to helping cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatments manage the often difficult side effects they experience including skin burns or hand-foot syndrome. For more information, including gifts for cancer survivors, please browse our products.