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Blue Light Officially Linked to Breast and Prostate Cancers

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Research from Spain found an association between nighttime exposure to blue light and an increased risk of developing breast and prostate cancers. Blue light is emitted by cell phones, flat-screen TVs, computers and tablets, as well as by the LED bulbs now being used in the streetlights of many cities.

“WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified night shift work as probably carcinogenic to humans. There is evidence pointing to an association between exposure to artificial light at night, disruption of the circadian rhythm, and breast and prostate cancers. With this study we sought to determine whether night exposure to light in cities can affect the development of these two types of cancer,” explained study coordinator Manolis Kogevinas.

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“We know that depending on its intensity and wave length, artificial light, particularly in the blue spectrum, can decrease melatonin production and secretion,” said coauthor Martin Aubé.

Higher Exposure to Blue Light Linked to 1.5 to 2.8-Fold Increased Risk

An international team of scientists conducted the study at Barcelona Institute for Global Health. The researchers examined medical and epidemiological data from more than 4,000 people in Spain who were between 20 and 85 years of age. They measured the exposure of the participants to indoor artificial light through personal questionnaires. The team also assessed exposure to outdoor artificial light via nocturnal images of Madrid and Barcelona take by astronauts from the International Space Station.

Analysis of the results showed that the individuals who were exposed to higher levels of outdoor blue light in the two cities had a 1.5 and 2-fold elevated risk of breast and prostate cancer, respectively, compared to those with lower exposure. In addition, men exposed to higher levels of indoor blue light had a 2.8-fold increased risk of prostate cancer. Interestingly, exposure to outdoor artificial light in the green and red spectrum wasn’t linked to either cancer.

“Given the ubiquity of artificial light at night, determining whether it increases or not the risk of cancer is a public health issue,” said first author Ariadna García.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

How to Reduce Blue-Light Exposure

While researchers know exposure to blue light at night disrupts circadian rhythms and decreases melatonin production, they haven’t uncovered why it also harms many aspects of health. Nonetheless, because of studies showing it may increase the risk of developing cancer, , obesity and diabetes, a growing number of experts believe that dark nights, like exercise and a nutritious diet, are essential for wellness.

The need to avoid blue light presents a problem, not only due to the widespread use of electronics in today’s world but also due to the emergence of energy-efficient lighting. LED light bulbs and curlicue compact fluorescent light bulbs are more energy efficient than the incandescent variety, but they more blue light. Here are some tips for reducing your exposure to this kind of light and protecting yourself from circadian rhythm disruption:

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