Can Avoiding Light at Night Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer?

Integr Cancer Ther. 2016 Jun;15(2):145-52. doi: 10.1177/1534735415618787. Epub 2015 Dec 1.


Excessive exposure to artificial light at night (ALAN) suppresses nocturnal melatonin (MLT) production in the pineal gland and is, therefore, associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (BC). We examined indoor and outdoor light habits of 278 women, BC patients (n = 93), and controls (n = 185; 2010-2014). Cases and controls were age and residential area matched. Data regarding behavior in the sleeping habitat in a 5-year period, 10 to 15 years prior to disease diagnosis, were collected using a questionnaire. Sleep quality, bedtime, sleep duration, TV watching habits, presleeping reading habits, subjective illumination intensity, and type of illumination were collected. Binary logistic regression models were used to calculate odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (ORs with 95% CIs) for BC patients in relation to those habits. OR results revealed that women who had slept longer (controls), 10 to 15 years before the time of the study, in a period of 5 years, had a significant (OR = 0.74; 95% CI = 0.57-0.97; P < .03) reduced BC risk. Likewise, women who had been moderately exposed to ALAN as a result of reading using bed light (reading lamp) illumination and women who had slept with closed shutters reduced their BC risk: OR = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.67-0.97, P < .02, and OR = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.68-0.99, P < .04, respectively. However, women who had been exposed to ALAN as a result of living near strong illumination sources were at a significantly higher BC risk (OR = 1.52; 95% CI = 1.10-2.12; P < .01). These data support the hypothesis that diminishing nighttime light exposure will diminish BC risk and incidence. This hypothesis needs to be tested directly using available testing strategies and technologies that continuously measure an individual's light exposure, its timing, and sleep length longitudinally and feed this information back to the individual, so that BC risk can be distinguished prospectively.

Keywords: artificial light at night; breast cancer; latency period; rural; short wavelength illumination; urban.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Female
  • Habits
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Light / adverse effects*
  • Lighting / adverse effects
  • Melatonin / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Melatonin