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Contact:   Rebekah Mullaney
Lighting Research Center
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Troy, N.Y. -  4/18/2006

Leading Scientists Examine the Impact of Architectural Lighting on Breast Cancer

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.


About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC has been pioneering research in solid-state lighting, light and health, transportation lighting and safety, and energy efficiency for nearly 30 years. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. LRC researchers conduct independent, third-party testing of lighting products in the LRC's state of the art photometric laboratories, the only university lighting laboratories accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP Lab Code: 200480-0). In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. With 35 full-time faculty and staff, 15 graduate students, and a 30,000 sq. ft. laboratory space, the LRC is the largest university-based lighting research and education organization in the world.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science “to the common purposes of life.”