Sleep, Light and Breast Cancer - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Sleep, Light and Breast Cancer

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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 sleep in total darkness, the others with a light so dim you can barely see the difference when compared on his computer screen.

"For these rats the intensity of light was in a completely dark room and the equivalent of a little crack under the door."

But there is a difference in the growth of tumors. The big ones are from those not sleeping in total darkness. "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."

Dr. Hill says it's tied to the hormone melatonin. In darkness a gland makes high levels; in light, low levels. The natural rise and fall happens day and night, but with electricity and light from electronics that especially suppresses melatonin, constant light keeps melatonin 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."

Now if you have breast cancer or even if you don't, you're probably wondering should you take a melatonin supplement. Well, at this point, Dr. Hill cannot recommend, 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 dark.

"You make sure you get no less than 8 hours of sleep a night in a completely dark room, but if you have have insomnia and you wake up, don't get up and turn on the lights, 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.

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