Light-at-night exposure and the risk of female breast cancer in England

Project Background:

There is strong laboratory evidence for the carcinogenic effects of light-at-night (LAN) exposure in animals, and increasing evidence of cancer risks (especially breast cancer) associated with shift work that involves night work. Recent epidemiological studies have also suggested a significant positive association between environmental LAN and breast cancer risk. This will be the first national study exploring the relationship between LAN exposure and breast cancer risk in England.

Study Aims:

We will use Office for National Statistics cancer registrations, which include ~40,000 newly diagnosed breast cancer cases each year. Data on light pollution is available from the EU 5th Framework funded MANTLE project at a 200m x 200m resolution for 2002 which will be used to estimate LAN exposure. We will use a case-control study design to assess associations between LAN and breast cancer risk, using sex, age and deprivation matched controls of both skin cancer cases (ONS cancer registration) and cardiovascular disease hospital admissions (Hospital Episode Statistics).

Health Data:

ONS cancer registrations and HES CVD admissions

Benefits to Public:

The results of this national study will add to a sparse but growing literature on the possible health consequences of light at night exposure.  This project was originally undertaken as an MSc project (May – October 2015), and has since been written up as a Masters dissertation. The study is extended to a full SAHSU project using updated controls and advanced epidemiological methods. This will make the results more robust and meaningful to address public health concerns. Results will be disseminated via scientific conferences and peer-reviewed publications and shared with colleagues at Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.