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Another Breast Cancer Scare

When I first read this article from the Washington Post, I thought oh no, not another cancer scare. It seemed ridiculous at first. The study showed that those women who live in areas that are brightly lit at night have a higher rate of breast cancer.

At this point I was thinking, come on please, why are you trying to scare us. But they took night time satellite images to determine which geographical areas are most lit, and then found out the cancer rates of those individuals living there. Well the women that lived in these brightly lit night areas had a higher breast cancer rate.

This report also aligned with other studies in rats. Rats that slept at night with lights on also had a higher rate of cancer. It’s not proven but scientist link this higher rate of cancer to low levels of melatonin, which is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. The more melatonin the less chance you have of getting cancer. Supposedly, if you are a person who works the third shift (nurses, flight attendants…) this melatonin is produced at a lower rate than normal. The study results showed that nurses that work the third shift have a 60% higher rate of breast cancer even taking into consideration other mitigating factors.

Even more interesting, blind women produce higher rates of melatonin than average and have a lower than average rate of breast cancer.

Rats that slept at night with lights on were given melatonin injections. In those rats their rate of cancer was below average.

What’s next?

Ned Litte

is Jane's long suffering husband who enjoys high fantasy novels and the occasional romance that Jane disguises as a fantasy book. He is also the photographer and artist of the multimedia reviews here at Dear Author.


  1. Selena Kitt
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 16:57:40

    We sleep in total darkness. No night lights, no cell phone light or DVD lights. We even cover the alarm clocks. (And we live in a rural area, so no street lights, either…) I sleep SO much better, and wake up feeling very rested since we’ve started to do that. I wouldn’t doubt there’s something to the study. Our bodies really DO get out of whack when there are artificial lights around. Natural is usually better, all the way around :)

  2. Bonnie L.
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 18:39:40

    I read an article that said something similar only it was talking about higher cancer rates in graveyard shift workers. The article then went on to say that there was a way to mitigate the negative effects of the lights at night by ensuring that whenever it is you sleep that your environment is as dark as possible. The article postulated that the lighting conditions of your sleeping place have a profound affect on your melatonin production which then affects your body’s ability to fight off cancer.

  3. veinglory
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 20:24:50

    I can’t help but note that rats, being nocturnal, sleep during the day ;) It also suggests they might not be a great model for cancers in a diurnal mammal.

  4. stephanie feagan
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 23:03:28

    Aw hell, just getting up every day can cause cancer.
    I saw a good joke recently, wherein a patient asks her doctor if she can expect to live to at least 80. He asks if she smokes cigarettes or weed, drinks alcohol, is promiscuous, stays up too late, eats bacon, watches a lot of TV, hangs out in the sunshine, or drives too fast. She says no to all and the doc says, “Then why the hell do you want to live until you’re 80?”

    I quit smoking on October 30 and it’s truly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I grieve – and only another smoker can understand why that makes sense, as sick as it sounds. I started when I was 19, old enough to know better. In college, it was great to help me stay awake. I swore I’d quit when I turned 30…then 40…and I decided I couldn’t put it off until 50, so I quit last October. Which means I smoked for 29 years. Oye! I guess, having put myself at great risk for lung cancer, as well as a host of other cancers linked to smoking, I just don’t get too worked up about things like Sweet’n’Low and too much light.

  5. Robin Bayne
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 09:38:34

    I’m a bc survivor who has always slept in total darkness, and lived in the burbs. I do take melatonin supplements now, but they really have no idea what causes bc. They can only guess by comparing similarities.

  6. Sheryl Nantus
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 10:41:04

    I think it’s a case of a little knowledge being a VERY dangerous thing…

    it’s been proven that shift workers are going to be more prone to sickness because you’re fighting your natural body rhythm. Heck, when I was working night shift I loved it because I was a night owl but it played havoc with my body!

    so if you’re NOT getting enough sleep (and in today’s society how DARE you actually get your full eight hours!) you’re going to automatically lower your immune systems. Not rocket science!

    Robin – glad you’re doing well!!!


  7. Robin Bayne
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 11:19:14

    Thanks Sheryl : )

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