Association between outdoor light-at-night exposure and colorectal cancer in Spain (MCC-Spain study)

Garcia-Saenz A, Sánchez de Miguel A, Espinosa A, et al. Association between outdoor light-at-night exposure and colorectal cancer in Spain (MCC-Spain study) [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jun 24]. Epidemiology. 2020;10.1097/EDE.0000000000001226. doi:10.1097/EDE.0000000000001226


Background: Night shift work, exposure to artificial light-at-night and particularly blue light spectrum, and the consequent circadian disruption may increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer. Colorectal cancer risk may also be increased among night-shift workers. We investigated the association between exposure to artificial light at night according to light spectrum and colorectal cancer among subjects who had never worked at night in a general population case-control study in Spain.

Methods: We examined information on 661 incident histologically verified colorectal cancer cases and 1322 controls from Barcelona and Madrid, 2007-2013. Outdoor artificial light at night exposure was based on images from the International Space Station (ISS) including data on remotely sensed upward light intensity. We derived adjusted odds ratio (OR) estimates and confidence intervals (CI) for visual light, blue light, and spectral sensitivities of the five human photopigments assigned to participant’s geocoded longest residence.

Results: : Exposure to blue light spectrum was positively associated with colorectal cancer (OR=1.6; 95%CI: 1.2-2.2; highest vs. lowest tertile). ORs were similar (OR=1.7; 95%CI: 1.3-2.3) when further adjusting for area socioeconomic status, diet patterns, smoking, sleep and family history. We observed no association for outdoor visual light (full spectrum) (OR = 1.0, 95%CI 0.7-1.2; highest vs. lowest tertile). Analysis of the five photopigments gave similar results with increased risks for shorter wavelengths overlapping with the blue spectrum and no association for longer wavelengths.

Conclusions: Outdoor blue light spectrum exposure that is increasingly prevalent in recent years may be associated with colorectal cancer risk.

New study uses satellite images of outdoor lighting in Barcelona and Madrid 29.07.2020

Photo: Israel Sundseth / Unsplash

Blue light has become an increasingly common component of urban outdoor lighting. But how does it impact our health? A team led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a centre supported by the ”la Caixa” Foundation, has conducted the first study of the association between night-time exposure to outdoor artificial light and colorectal cancer. The findings, published in Epidemiology, show that exposure to the blue light spectrum may increase the risk of this type of cancer.

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