Leading epidemiologists and lighting scientists gathered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Monday, April 17, 2006, to examine the impact of architectural lighting on breast cancer. Recent scientific studies claim to demonstrate a link between architectural lighting and cancer growth.
The panelists included Julia Knight, Ph.D., University of Toronto; Eva Schernhammer, MD, DrPH, Harvard Medical School; Richard Stevens, Ph.D., University of Connecticut Health Center; and Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer.
“The incidence of breast cancer continues to grow, and the work of many epidemiologists and lighting scientists is leading us to believe that architectural lighting may be a factor,” said Mark Rea, Ph.D., director of the Lighting Research Center (LRC) and host of the panel discussion.
LRC researchers have developed a model that, for the first time, offers a framework for testing and exploring the practical aspects of architectural lighting and how it can affect human health. According to Rea, several scientific studies have determined that light on the eye’s retina is the primary synchronizer of human circadian rhythms, the biological cycles that repeat approximately every 24 hours. Researchers at the LRC are working to better understand and quantify light as a stimulus for the circadian system.
Nocturnal melatonin, a hormone, is used as a marker for the circadian clock, with high levels at night when a person is in a dark environment and low levels during the day with or without light. Scientific evidence suggests that disruption of the melatonin cycle may result in increased malignant tumor growth, as well as poor sleep quality, lack of alertness, seasonal depression, and immune deficiencies.
The new LRC model can be used as the foundation for a new system of circadian photometry, much like the current system of photometry based on human vision. Quantification of light as a stimulus for the circadian system has profound implications for exploring how lighting can be used to adjust our bodies’ clocks.
The panel discussion was moderated by John Bullough, Ph.D., Rensselaer adjunct assistant professor and LRC lighting scientist.
The event was Webcast live and will be archived on the LRC Web site. For more information on the seminar, please visit www.lrc.rpi.edu/resources/newsroom/architecturalLighting.asp.