Population-level study links short-wavelength nighttime illumination with breast cancer incidence in a major metropolitan area

Nataliya Rybnikova, Boris A. Portnov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several population-level studies revealed a positive association between breast cancer (BC) incidence and artificial light at night (ALAN) exposure. However, the effect of short-wavelength illumination, implicated by laboratory research and small-scale cohort studies as the main driving force behind BC–ALAN association, has not been supported by any population-level study carried out to date. We investigated a possible link between BC and ALAN of different subspectra using a multi-spectral year-2011 satellite image, taken from the International Space Station, and superimposing it with year-2013 BC incidence data available for the Great Haifa Metropolitan Area in Israel. The analysis was performed using both ordinary least square (OLS) and spatial dependency models, controlling for socioeconomic and locational attributes of the study area. The study revealed strong associations between BC and blue and green light subspectra (B = 0.336 ± 0.001 and B = 0.335 ± 0.002, respectively; p < 0.01), compared to a somewhat weaker effect for the red subspectrum (B = 0.056 ± 0.001; p < 0.01). However, spatial dependency models, controlling for spatial autocorrelation of regression residuals, confirmed only a positive association between BC incidence and short-wavelength (blue) ALAN subspectrum (z = 2.462, p < 0.05) while reporting insignificant associations between BC and either green (z = 1.425, p > 0.1) or red (z = −0.604, p > 0.1) subspectra. The obtained result is in line with the results of laboratory- and small-scale cohort studies linking short-wavelength nighttime illumination with circadian disruption and melatonin suppression. The detected effect of blue lights on BC incidence may help to develop informed illumination policies aimed at minimizing the adverse health effects of ALAN exposure on human health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1198-1208
Number of pages11
JournalChronobiology International
Issue number9
StatePublished - 17 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to the Israel Ministry of Science, Technology and Space for supporting this study [the Ilan Ramon scholarship].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC


  • Artificial light at night
  • breast cancer incidence
  • melatonin
  • satellite images
  • short-wavelength illumination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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