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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

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 conducts research in light and human health, transportation lighting and safety, solid-state lighting, energy efficiency, and plant health. 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. 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. Learn more at

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America's first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.