MAR 11, 2016 12:35 PM PST

Light Therapy Decreases Depression in Cancer Survivors

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet

A common reaction to learning you have cancer is shock. A person's struggle with the diagnosis and the subsequent treatment often triggers depression. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 4 people with cancer have clinical depression. 

Even after the person recovers from their cancer, the depressive symptoms often stay. Even years after treatment, cancer survivors often battle a depression that interferes with the quality of a life they fought to live. It "puts survivors at risk for poor outcomes, including death," said psychologist Heiddis Valdimarsdottir, assistant professor of oncological sciences at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. 

Now, research shows that light therapy decreased depressive symptoms among cancer survivors and normalized their circadian rhythms. 

Systematic light exposure, or light therapy, is often used to treat seasonal depression. A light therapy patient looks indirectly into a full-spectrum bright white light on a daily basis. Light therapy has also been proven effective in treating nonseasonal depression, bipolar disorder, and circadian rhythm disorders.
 

Valdimarsdottir, along with a team of researchers, wanted to find whether light therapy would help cancer survivors struggling with depression. They recruited 54 survivors and instructed them to use a light for 30 minutes every morning for four weeks. The participants were randomly divided into two groups. One group used the Litebook®, a light therapy lamp that emits 10,000 lux at 20 to 24 inches. The other group used a dim red light. The researchers assessed the participants at the beginning of the study, 2-weeks into the study, at the end of the 4-week light therapy period, and three weeks after the completion of their therapy. 

Patients who used the Litebook® experienced an improvement in their depression symptoms. The other group did not experience any changes in their symptoms. The white light also normalized circadian rhythms.

"Our findings suggest light therapy, a rather non-invasive therapy, may provide an innovative way to decrease depression among cancer survivors," said William Redd, professor of oncological sciences.

The Icahn School of Medicine researchers presented their findings today, March 11, 2016, at the American Psychosomatic Society in Denver, CO. 

Sources: The Mount Sinai Hospital/Mount Sinai School of Medicine press release via EurekAlert!, conference abstract, curetoday.com 
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
You May Also Like
SEP 22, 2021
Cancer
Whole Genome Sequencing for Cancer Diagnostics
SEP 22, 2021
Whole Genome Sequencing for Cancer Diagnostics
The human genome consists of genetic material known as DNA.  We all have unique DNA sequences made up of four bases ...
SEP 29, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Study Suggests Cell Reprogramming Can Repair Heart Attack Damage
SEP 29, 2021
Study Suggests Cell Reprogramming Can Repair Heart Attack Damage
Cells carry the genome in their nucleus, and the genes that are expressed give a cell its identity. Researchers have bee ...
OCT 05, 2021
Microbiology
Insects & Spiders Seem to Carry & Spread Antibiotic Resistance
OCT 05, 2021
Insects & Spiders Seem to Carry & Spread Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance is seen as a growing threat to public health, and scientists have been trying to develop new antib ...
OCT 08, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Research on Cannabis Patches and Topical Lotions to Manage Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
OCT 08, 2021
Research on Cannabis Patches and Topical Lotions to Manage Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
As medical cannabis becomes legalized around the globe, patients need to explore which routes of cannabis delivery best ...
OCT 10, 2021
Plants & Animals
Temperature Perception Seems to be Different in Males & Females
OCT 10, 2021
Temperature Perception Seems to be Different in Males & Females
It's not unusual for people in workplaces and at home to have different temperature preferences. There may be biological ...
OCT 15, 2021
Health & Medicine
Over Half of Patients Infected in the Pandemic Experience 'Long COVID'
OCT 15, 2021
Over Half of Patients Infected in the Pandemic Experience 'Long COVID'
About 236 million people are known to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVD-19. Researchers hav ...
Loading Comments...