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In what surely must be under the category of “yet another thing to worry about”, Israeli researchers have published information on the possibility that artificial light promotes breast cancer. This idea is supported by animal studies and human epidemiological studies (for instance, women who work the night shift have higher rates of breast cancer than those working days).

The current study used NASA satellite data to measure nighttime artificial light amounts on 213 Israeli settlements. They looked at lung cancer and breast cancer incidences. Lung cancer was unchanged, but breast cancer showed a 37% increase in incidence when women lived in an “average” lit area (compared to very little night light), and a 64% increase in areas with the most artificial light. Another aspect of the study showed women with breast cancer to live generally closer to shopping malls, entertainment areas and other highly-lit areas.

Artificial light, particularly “blue” light from fluorescent bulbs, block the production of melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland. Melatonin is a potent supporter of the immune system, and seems to have a helpful effect in preventing and even treating breast cancer (the NIH is currently funding a study of just this positive effect).

Meanwhile, seeking natural light wherever possible, small doses of melatonin at night, and skipping the Leno monologue for an earlier bedtime might be a good immune-boosting strategy.

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