Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Increase in childhood leukaemia may be part due to increased light at night


International experts will (Wednesday 8 September) consider the evidence for a link between the rise in childhood leukaemia and increased light at night at an international scientific conference in London.

The incidence of childhood leukaemia increased dramatically in the twentieth century. The increase has mainly affected the under five age group, in whom the risk increased by more than 50 per cent during the second half of the century alone.

Although the causes of leukaemia in children are poorly understood, environmental factors are thought to play a major role in the rising incidence since changes in our genetic make up simply do not happen on this kind of timescale. If this is the case, then it may be possible to take preventative measures, but first we need to determine what these factors are.

This is the driving force behind the conference – Childhood leukaemia: incidence, causal mechanisms and prevention – which is being hosted by CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA, Britain’s leading charity devoted to the conquest of the disease.

Whilst the link between leukaemia and light at night may, on the surface, seem surprising, it has a logical basis and there is considerable evidence pointing towards the association. Compared with 100 years ago we are exposed to considerable light at night (LAN) during the natural hours of darkness. LAN disrupts our natural circadian rhythm, suppressing the normal nocturnal production of the hormone melatonin.

As Russel Reiter, Professor of Cellular and Structural Biology at the University of Texas, explains, a reduction in melatonin has been linked to cancer initiation as well as cancer progression. "As an anti oxidant, in many studies melatonin has been shown to protect DNA from oxidative damage. Once damaged, DNA may mutate and carcinogenesis may occur."

A number of studies have shown that people in occupations that expose them to LAN (i.e. night workers) experience a higher risk of breast cancer and that blind people, who are not vulnerable to reduced melatonin levels through LAN, have a lower incidence of cancer.
Russell Foster, Professor of Visual Neuroscience at Imperial College, London, will be exploring the mechanisms by which light regulates the circadian system. He explains "Embedded within the genes of us, and almost all life on earth, are the instructions for a biological clock that marks the passage of approximately 24 hours. Until we turned our nights into days, and began to travel in aircraft across multiple time zones, we were largely unaware of these internal clocks.

These clocks drive or alter our sleep patterns, alertness, mood, physical strength, blood pressure and every other aspect of our physiology and behaviour."

Professor Foster has detected novel photoreceptors in the eye and he will be sharing the clues about light perception pathways that his work is revealing.

Professor Reiter will introduce the link between magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia, an association which is now thought to be related to the light at night effect since magnetic fields also appear to reduce melatonin levels.

Reiter will be reviewing a number of theoretical explanations for this effect. As he says "If, in fact, melatonin levels are altered by magnetic fields, a potential relationship between these fields and cancer, including leukaemia, would be possible."

Top international experts from Europe, America, Asia and Australia will converge on London to discuss this and a wealth of other research being presented over the five days of the conference. Many of the usual suspects will be covered – including radiation, viruses, parental smoking and air pollution. But other concepts that have so far received little attention will also be highlighted. These include, for example, diet in early life, medicines in pregnancy as well as the links with melatonin and light at night, outlined above.

It is hoped that out of the conference will be born an agenda for future research and CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA will be launching a £1m fund to support research in priority areas.

Josie Golden | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>