Free Press Journal

Light exposure reduces depression in cancer survivors


New York : Light can be used as an innovative therapy to decrease symptoms and normalise circadian rhythms among cancer survivors, a new study suggests. Researchers randomly divided 54 cancer survivors into a bright white light or a dim red light group. Participants were provided with a light box and asked to use it for 30 minutes every morning for four weeks.

Depressive symptoms and circadian activity rhythms were measured before, during and three months after completing the light exposures to determine the effectiveness of light therapy.

“Depressive symptoms are common among cancer survivors even years after treatment has ended,” said Heiddis Valdimarsdottir from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the US. “This interferes with overall quality of life and puts survivors at risk for poor outcomes including death,” said Valdimarsdottir.

Patients exposed to the bright light experienced improvement in depressive symptoms while those exposed to the dim red light experienced no change in symptoms. “Our findings suggest light therapy, a rather non-invasive therapy, may provide an innovative way to decrease depression among cancer survivors,” said William Redd from Icahn School of Medicine.

Most patients face some degree of depression, anxiety, and fear when cancer becomes part of their lives. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 4 people with cancer have clinical depression. “The good news is that depression can be treated, and bright light therapy is a potentially effective new treatment option,” said Valdimarsdottir. The findings were presented at the American Psychosomatic Society.