Regularly alternating periods of light and darkness, such as normally occur with the rising and the setting of the sun, are essential for the maintenance of undisturbed circadian rhythms in all organisms including humans. The light-dark environment, as detected by specialized photoreceptors in the retinas, impacts the endogenous circadian clock in the anterior hypothalamus, the suprachiasmatic nuclei. These nuclei, via both neural and humoral signals, communicate with cells throughout the organism to establish regular circadian rhythms. The introduction of artificial sources of light roughly 150 years ago has significantly undermined the naturally occurring light-dark environment and, likewise, has disturbed circadian rhythms since light is now available at unusual times, i.e., at night. Light at night is known to cause circadian disruption and melatonin suppression. Of many potentially pathophysiological consequences of these artificial light-mediated changes, female breast cancer has become of major interest. Additionally, however, there is currently data suggesting that not only breast cancer, but cancer in general, cardiovascular diseases, insomnia, metabolic syndrome, and affective and cognitive disorders may be aggravated by the increased exposure to light at night, which is inevitable in well-developed societies that have undergone extensive electrification.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)