Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Exposure to artificial light at night and risk of cancer: where do we go from here?


Despite experimental and mechanistic data suggesting circadian disruption’s role in carcinogenesis, mixed findings from epidemiological investigations of artificial light at night and cancer risk in the general population are difficult to interpret due to exposure assessment limitations. It will be important for future studies to assess and validate individual-level exposures, ideally over the lifetime.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    Reiter, R. J., Tan, D. X., Korkmaz, A., Erren, T. C., Piekarski, C., Tamura, H. et al. Light at night, chronodisruption, melatonin suppression, and cancer risk: a review. Crit. Rev. Oncogenesis 3, 303–328 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Menendez-Menendez, J. & Martinez-Campa, C. Melatonin: an anti-tumor agent in hormone-dependent cancers. Int. J. Endocrinol. 2018, 3271948 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    IARC Monographs Vol 124 group. Carcinogenicity of night shift work. Lancet Oncol. 20, 1058–1059 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Li, Q., Zheng, T., Holford, T. R., Boyle, P., Zhang, Y. & Dai, M. Light at night and breast cancer risk: results from a population-based case-control study in Connecticut, USA. Cancer Cause. Control 21, 2281–2285 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Hurley, S., Goldberg, D., Nelson, D., Hertz, A., Horn-Ross, P. L., Bernstein, L. et al. Light at night and breast cancer risk among California teachers. Epidemiology 25, 697–706 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    James, P., Bertrand, K. A., Hart, J. E., Schernhammer, E. S., Tamimi, R. M. & Laden, F. Outdoor light at night and breast cancer incidence in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Environ. Health Perspect. 125, 087010 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    White, A. J., Weinberg, C. R., Park, Y. M., D’Aloisio, A. A., Vogtmann, E., Nichols, H. B. et al. Sleep characteristics, light at night and breast cancer risk in a prospective cohort. Int. J. Cancer 141, 2204–2214 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Johns, L. E., Jones, M. E., Schoemaker, M. J., McFadden, E., Ashworth, A. & Swerdlow, A. J. Domestic light at night and breast cancer risk: a prospective analysis of 105 000 UK women in the Generations Study. Br. J. Cancer 118, 600–606 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Xiao, Q., James, P., Breheny, P., Jia, P., Park, Y., Zhang, D. et al. Outdoor light at night and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the NIH-AARP diet and health study. Int. J. Cancer. (2020).

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Huss, A., van Wel, L., Bogaards, L., Vrijkotte, T., Wolf, L., Hoek, G. et al. Shedding some light in the dark—a comparison of personal measurements with satellite-based estimates of exposure to light at night among children in the Netherlands. Environ. Health Perspect. 127, 67001 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Garcia-Saenz, A., Sanchez de Miguel, A., Espinosa, A., Valentin, A., Aragones, N., Llorca, J. et al. Evaluating the association between artificial light-at-night exposure and breast and prostate cancer risk in Spain (MCC-Spain Study). Environ. Health Perspect. 126, 047011 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Garcia-Saenz, A., de Miguel, A. S., Espinosa, A., Costas, L., Aragonés, N., Tonne, C. et al. Association between outdoor light-at-night exposure and colorectal cancer in Spain. Epidemiology 31, 718–727 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Cho, Y., Ryu, S. H., Lee, B. R., Kim, K. H., Lee, E. & Choi, J. Effects of artificial light at night on human health: a literature review of observational and experimental studies applied to exposure assessment. Chronobiol. Int. 32, 1294–1310 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The author would like to thank Drs. Mary Ward and Debra Silverman, and Ms. Danielle Medgyesi for their thoughtful comments and suggestions.

Author information




R.R.J. was invited to write this piece by the British Journal of Cancer.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rena R. Jones.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent to publish

Not applicable.

Data availability

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Funding information

This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.

Additional information

Note This work is published under the standard license to publish agreement. After 12 months the work will become freely available and the license terms will switch to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Jones, R.R. Exposure to artificial light at night and risk of cancer: where do we go from here?. Br J Cancer 124, 1467–1468 (2021).

Download citation


Quick links