Light Exposure Improves Depressive Symptoms Among Cancer Survivors

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Light therapy decreased depressive symptoms and normalized circadian rhythms among cancer survivors, according to new research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai presented at the American Psychosomatic Society in Denver, CO.

Light therapy decreased depressive symptoms and normalized circadian rhythms among cancer survivors, according to new research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai presented today at the American Psychosomatic Society in Denver, CO.

Researchers from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Northwestern University in Chicago, University of Iowa, University of California in San Diego and Reykjavik University in Iceland 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, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncological Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and lead author of the study. “This interferes with overall quality of life and puts survivors at risk for poor outcomes including death.”

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, PhD, Professor of Oncological Sciences at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-author of the study.

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 Dr. Valdimarsdottir.

About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.

The System includes approximately 6,100 primary and specialty care physicians; 12 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 140 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the renowned Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the highest in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding per investigator. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals in Geriatrics, Cardiology/Heart Surgery, and Gastroenterology, and is in the top 25 in five other specialties in the 2015-2016 “Best Hospitals” issue of U.S. News & World Report. Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital also is ranked in seven out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 11th nationally for Ophthalmology, while Mount Sinai Beth Israel is ranked regionally.

For more information, visit http://www.mountsinai.org or find Mount Sinai on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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Lucia Lee
Mount Sinai Health System
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