A local scientist is making news around the world with a discovery about night light and breast cancer. His study suggests that your sleep habits may play a major role in treating breast cancer.
It's a major discovery about the effects of sleep and light on breast cancer. Tulane's Dr. Steven Hill and his team, put human breast cancer cells in laboratory rats. Some slept in total darkness, the others slept with a light so dim you can barley see the difference when compared the two are compared.
'For these rats, the intensity of light was in a completely dark room and the equivalent of a little crack under the door,' explained Dr. Hill, Director of the Tulane Center for Circadian Biology.
But there was a big difference in the growth of the tumors. The tumors in the rats sleeping with the dim light grew much larger.
'We found that these tumors grew two and a half times as fast as those that had dark night and that when we treated them with Tamoxifen, these tumors were completely resistant (to the drug),'
Dr. Hill says, adding that it's tied to the hormone melatonin.
In darkness, a gland makes high levels in your body. In light, your body makes low levels. The natural rise and fall happens each day and night. But now, with electricity and light from electronics, with a wavelength that especially suppresses melatonin, constant light keeps that hormone from rising at night. The same pattern was seen when the rats were given a melatonin supplement.
'Their tumor metabolism was turned off at night. These signaling pathways that drive drug resistance and Tamoxifen resistance and even metastasis, were turned off or down at night. They were highly sensitive to Tamoxifen and the tumors regressed very rapidly,' Dr. Hill said about his findings.
Now if you have breast cancer, or even if you don't, you're probably wondering should you take a melatonin supplement. At this point, Dr. Hill can not recommend that you do, but he can recommend that you let your body make and regulate its own natural melatonin by getting a good night's sleep and making sure it's in solid darkness.
'You make sure you get no less than eight hours of sleep a night in a completely dark room, but if you have insomnia and you wake up, don't get up and turn on the lights,' he said.
He also added this suggestion to breast cancer patients. 'Take your Tamoxifen at night before you go to bed.'
Previous studies found that overnight workers have more cancer and diabetes because of longer exposure to light.
A donation of at least $25 to help continue this research, will get you a sleep mask to cover your eyes. That is how light enters the body and stimulates the production of melatonin.
To donate, click here.