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New therapy sheds light on post-cancer depression

Light can be used as an innovative therapy to decrease symptoms and normalise circadian rhythms among cancer survivors, a new study suggests.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 12, 2016 16:20 IST
Cancer

Light can be used as an innovative therapy to decrease symptoms and normalise circadian rhythms among cancer survivors, a new study suggests.

Researchers 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.

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. (Shutterstock)

“Depressive symptoms are common among cancer survivors even years after treatment has ended,” said Heiddis Valdimarsdottir from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the US.

“This interferes with overall quality of life and puts survivors at risk for poor outcomes including death,” said Valdimarsdottir.

Read: Ditch white bread, corn flakes and puffed rice to beat lung cancer

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 from Icahn School of Medicine.

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.

Read: Cancer drugs to cost more on high duty

“The good news is that depression can be treated, and bright light therapy is a potentially effective new treatment option,” said Valdimarsdottir.

The findings were presented at the American Psychosomatic Society.

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