Light Therapy May Improve Depression in Cancer Survivors

Bright white light therapy shows treats depressive symptoms in cancer patients.

Researchers found in a recent study that light therapy was able to decrease symptoms of depression, which affects 1 in 4 cancer patients, and normalize circadian rhythms of cancer survivors.

“Depressive symptoms are common among cancer survivors, even years after treatment has ended,” said lead study author, Heiddis Valdimarsdottir, PhD. “This interferes with overall quality of life and puts survivors at risk for poor outcomes including death.”

During the study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai used 54 cancer survivor participants randomized into 2 groups to receive either a bright white light box or a dim red light box.

Participants were required to use the light box for 30 minutes each morning for 4 weeks. Researchers measured depressive symptoms and circadian activity rhythms before, during, and 3 months after completing the light therapy study.

The results of the study showed that those who were exposed to the bright white light had improvement in depressive symptoms compared with the red light group, who 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 study co-author, William Redd, PhD.