AMA: Health implications of light at night 'serious'

June 21, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- The American Medical Association is acknowledging the growing evidence of health problems associated with exposure to artificial light, and is taking action that could lead to more government funding of research in this area.

The AMA’s House of Delegates has voted to accept the recommendations of a report from the AMA Council on Science and Public , which address changes in lighting technologies and usage, recognition of the impact on sleep and sleep disorders, and further study of the possible link between light at night and cancer risk, obesity, and exacerbation of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

“It is a recognition by a major health body, the American Medical Association, that this is an emerging environmental issue that has a potentially large impact on the health of society,” says cancer epidemiologist Richard Stevens, professor in the UConn School of Medicine Department of Community Medicine and Health Care. “Based on an accumulation of evidence, this august body is now making the statement: ‘We take this seriously, and the public should take it seriously too.’”

The adoption of the council report’s recommendations by the AMA has the potential to influence federal grant money to study the health impact of artificial light at night.

Stevens was heavily involved in the writing of the report, titled “Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting.” He is lead or co-author of nine of the research papers cited.

In scientific circles Stevens is widely credited with being the first to articulate the hypothesis that the increasing use of artificial light at night may be related to the high risk in the industrialized world. His research in that topic goes back 25 years.

“There’s no question that this light at night changes our physiology in the short term,” Stevens says. “We know that artificial light disrupts circadian rhythms. We’re learning more and more about the specifics of what that means. The clearest evidence is about the hormone melatonin. We’re lowering it, we’re even suppressing it completely, depending on the amount of light.”

Melatonin has been shown to inhibit breast cancer in laboratory rats. Stevens is careful to say that the changes in human physiology from artificial light, circadian disruption and melatonin suppression have not been proven to cause breast cancer. Instead he offers a judicial analogy:

“It’s guilty in a civil trial, but no verdict in a criminal trial. A reasonable jury would say there is a preponderance of evidence, but it’s not beyond a reasonable doubt at this point.”

Five years ago, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization declared night shift work as a “probable carcinogen.” Stevens was on the panel of scientists that made that determination.

Explore further: Night shift might boost women's breast cancer risk: study

Related Stories

Night shift might boost women's breast cancer risk: study

May 29, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Women who work the night shift more than twice a week might be increasing their risk for breast cancer, Danish researchers find.

Excess weight in young adulthood predicts shorter lifespan

August 17, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Those 25-year-olds who are overweight now but think they will be fine as long as they lose weight eventually might need to reconsider. A study appearing online in the Journal of Adolescent Health finds ...

Recommended for you

Zebrafish larvae could be used as 'avatars' to optimize personalized treatment of cancer

August 21, 2017
Portuguese scientists have for the first time shown that the larvae of a tiny fish could one day become the preferred model for predicting, in advance, the response of human malignant tumors to the various therapeutic drugs ...

Scientists discover vitamin C regulates stem cell function, curbs leukemia development

August 21, 2017
Not much is known about stem cell metabolism, but a new study from the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) has found that stem cells take up unusually high levels of vitamin C, which then ...

Searching for the 'signature' causes of BRCAness in breast cancer

August 21, 2017
Breast cancer cells with defects in the DNA damage repair-genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 have a mutational signature (a pattern of base swaps—e.g., Ts for Gs, Cs for As—throughout a genome) known in cancer genomics as "Signature ...

How a non-coding RNA encourages cancer growth and metastasis

August 21, 2017
A mechanism that pushes a certain gene to produce a non-coding form of RNA instead of its protein-coding alternative can promote the growth of cancer, report researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) ...

Spaser can detect, kill circulating tumor cells to prevent cancer metastases, study finds

August 21, 2017
A nanolaser known as the spaser can serve as a super-bright, water-soluble, biocompatible probe capable of finding metastasized cancer cells in the blood stream and then killing these cells, according to a new research study.

Comprehensive genomic analysis offers insights into causes of Wilms tumor development

August 21, 2017
A comprehensive genomic analysis of Wilms tumor - the most common kidney cancer in children - found genetic mutations involving a large number of genes that fall into two major categories. These categories involve cellular ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.