Does current scientific evidence support a link between light at night and breast cancer among female night-shift nurses? Review of evidence and implications for occupational and environmental health nurses

Workplace Health Saf. 2012 Jun;60(6):273-81; quiz 282. doi: 10.1177/216507991206000607.


Breast cancer is increasingly prevalent in industrialized regions of the world, and exposure to light at night (LAN) has been proposed as a potential risk factor. Epidemiological observations have documented an increased breast cancer risk among female night-shift workers, and strong experimental evidence for this relationship has also been found in rodent models. Indirect support for the LAN hypothesis comes from studies involving blind women, sleep duration, bedroom light levels, and community nighttime light levels. This article reviews the literature, discusses possible mechanisms of action, and provides recommendations for occupational health nursing research, practice, and education. Research is needed to further explore the relationship between exposure to LAN and breast cancer risk and elucidate the mechanisms underlying this relationship before interventions can be designed for prevention and mitigation of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / nursing
  • Chronobiology Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Chronobiology Disorders / nursing
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing
  • Environmental Health
  • Evidence-Based Nursing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Night Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupational Health Nursing*
  • Risk Factors
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*