Most people have heard that nurses working night shift have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than nurses who only work days. The basic reaction is “That’s too bad.” What people don’t realize is that the same danger applies to them too. All who expose their eyes to light in the hours before bedtime increases their risk of cancer. Again the response is probably “Too bad, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m not going to give up using electric lights.” The good news is you don’t have to go to bed with the chickens.
A few years ago scientists in the US and IK found that it is the blue component in ordinary white light that is the root of the problem. It’s been known for many years that exposing the eyes to light suppresses the production of a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is both the sleep hormone and a powerful cancer fighter. The historic discovery is that by blocking blue light the body can continue making melatonin as if in darkness. All that is required to reduce cancer risk is to avoid blue light for a few hours before bedtime. Using light bulbs that don’t make it is one approach. Wearing glasses that block blue light is another approach. Since only the blue rays are eliminated there is still plenty of light to carry on normal evening activities like working on a computer or reading or watching television.
Not only does this reduce the risk of cancer but also helps the quality of sleep. By starting to make melatonin before going to bed it is easier to fall asleep. People report sleeping more soundly and enjoying vivid dreams. With plenty of melatonin present the body temperature drops more and sleep is deeper.
One fact not known by most people is that blind women have about half the rate of breast cancer as sighted women. Blind people and normal people that are kept in the dark make melatonin for 9- 11 hours a night. We all enjoyed this long flow of melatonin before we had electric lights. Now most Americans are in darkness only about seven hours a night. By wearing blue-blocking glasses for three or more hours before bedtime we can maximize the time when melatonin is present to fight cancer.
Based on all this research a team at John Carroll University has developed low blue products. They formed a spin-off company that sells low blue lights and glasses that block blue light on a website www.lowbluelights,.com. This allows all of us to get back to the lighting conditions under which humans evolved. This is truly a natural way to fight cancer.
It turns out it also helps new mothers avoid post partum depression resulting from getting up at night to take care of their baby. By wearing blue-blocking glasses they can avoid having their melatonin cut off by exposing their eyes to light. It also helps people with bipolar disease stabilize their mood by wearing glasses in the evening. Some children with ADHD also find getting rid of blue light in the evening helps them sleep better.
You’re probably asking “Why haven’t I heard about this?” The answer is simple. There is no expensive pill to pay for advertising to tell the world about it. The other reason is that since there is no way to pay for large clinical trials, the medical profession is unwilling to accept the logic. They want clinical trials. The government has begun funding some small trials so ten years from now the evidence will be there. Ordinary people don’ need to wait to take these simple precautions.
About the author: Dr. Hansler is an expert in the field of lighting after working for 42 years at GE Lighting. Since his retirement he has founded the Lighting Innovations Institute at John Carroll University. He has recently turned his attention to the effect of light on health. His new book is “Great Sleep! Reduced Cancer!” (Amazon).
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