Shedding Light in the Darkness

LED Lights Could Give You Cancer


The Daily Telegraph reports that the new generation of street lights in the UK  dramatically increases rates of breast and prostate cancer, according to a new study. Scientists have warned officials to consider limiting the roll-out of LED (light-emitting diode) lights after an investigation indicated a “strong link” between the technology and the disease.

Hundreds of thousands of street lights have so far been switched to LED, which are cheaper to run and result in lower emissions, while approximately 30 per cent of the the lights on motorways and A roads in England have also been upgraded.

However, analysis of more than 4,000 people living in 11 separate regions of Spain, mainly around Madrid and Barcelona, established a link between heavy exposure to the LED lighting and a doubling of the risk of prostate cancer in men, as well as a 1.5-times higher chance of breast cancer in women.

The scientists found the bluer the light emission urban dwellers were exposed to, the higher the risk of cancer compared to those in suburban or rural regions. They also showed those who lived in homes with darker rooms, by using window shutters for example, had lower risk.

The nature of the study means researchers cannot prove a causal link, but they believe the “blue light” emitted by the LEDs may be disrupting the body’s circadian rhythm, which in turn affects hormone levels. Both breast and prostate cancers are hormone-related.

The research team at the University of Exeter and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health said their findings may also implicate the nighttime use of mobile phones and tablets, which also emit blue light, in cancer development.

Dr Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel, from Exeter, said: “Humans have evolved to need light during the day and darkness at night. “As towns and cities replace older lighting, we’re all exposed to higher levels of  “blue” lights, which can disrupt our biological clocks.”

“It’s imperative that we know for sure whether this increases our risk of cancer. Scientists have long suspected this may be the case – now our innovative findings indicate a strong link.”

Blue light is a range of the visible light spectrum emitted by most white LEDs and many tablet, phone and TV screens.

It has one of the shortest, highest-energy wavelengths and previous research has indicated that exposure to blue-spectrum light decreases the production and secretion of the melatonin hormone.

Melatonin plays a key role in regulating the day-night cycles and has several other key functions – for example it is a powerful anti-oxidant and has also an anti-inflammatory function.

Dr Manolis Kogevinas, head of the Cancer Research programme at ISGlobal, The Barcelona Institute for Global Health, who coordinated of the study, said: “The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified night shift work as probably carcinogenic to humans.

“There is evidence pointing to an association between exposure to artificial light at night, disruption of the circadian rhythm, and breast and prostate cancers.”

Earlier this month it was revealed Kent County Council is installing 118,000 LED lights on its streets, Leicestershire plans to have 68,000, Manchester 56,000 and Gloucestershire 55,000.

The study is published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: