Nighttime light level co-distributes with breast cancer incidence worldwide

Cancer Causes Control. 2010 Dec;21(12):2059-68. doi: 10.1007/s10552-010-9624-4. Epub 2010 Aug 3.


Breast cancer incidence varies widely among countries of the world for largely unknown reasons. We investigated whether country-level light at night (LAN) is associated with incidence. We compared incidence rates of five common cancers in women (breast, lung, colorectal, larynx, and liver), observed in 164 countries of the world from the GLOBOCAN database, with population-weighted country-level LAN, and with several developmental and environmental indicators, including fertility rate, per capita income, percent of urban population, and electricity consumption. Two types of regression models were used in the analysis: Ordinary Least Squares and Spatial Errors. We found a significant positive association between population LAN level and incidence rates of breast cancer. There was no such an association between LAN level and colorectal, larynx, liver, and lung cancers. A sensitivity test, holding other variables at their average values, yielded a 30-50% higher risk of breast cancer in the highest LAN exposed countries compared to the lowest LAN exposed countries. The possibility that under-reporting from the registries in the low-resource, and also low-LAN, countries created a spurious association was evaluated in several ways and shown not to account for the results. These findings provide coherence of the previously reported case-control and cohort studies with the co-distribution of LAN and breast cancer in entire populations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Rate
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Carcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma / etiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electricity
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Light* / adverse effects
  • Lighting
  • Photoperiod
  • Registries
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data