SLEEPING WITH LIGHT ON MAY CAUSE
KIDS who sleep with the light on could risk
leukaemia, parents were warned yesterday. Scientists have found the body
needs darkness to produce a chemical that fights cancer. Even switching the
light on for the toilet, staying up late, travelling across time zones, or
the light from street lamps can stop enough melatonin being made, they say.
The body needs the chemical to prevent damage to DNA and its absence stops
fatty acids reaching tumours and preventing them growing. Texas University
Prof Russell Reiter, who led the research, said: "Once you go to bed you
should not even switch the light on for a minute. "Your brain immediately
recognises the light as day and melatonin levels drop."
Rates of childhood leukaemia have doubled in the past 40 years. About 500
youngsters under 15 are diagnosed with the disease each year and around 100
die. A conference on childhood leukaemia in London yesterday heard that
people were being subjected to more light at night than
ever. This suppressed the production of melatonin which normally happens
between 9pm and 8am.
Past research has shown those most affected, like shift workers, had higher
levels of breast cancer.
Blind people, who are not vulnerable to fluctuations of melatonin, have
lower rates of cancer, it was found. Parents are advised to use dim red or
yellow bulbs if their youngsters are scared of the dark.