New therapy sheds light on post-cancer depression

Light can be used as a novel treatment to reduce symptoms and normalise circadian rhythms in cancer survivors, a new study suggests

man depressed, depression cancer

Most cancer patients are faced with some level of depression, anxiety and fear when cancer becomes part of their life.

The American Cancer Society predicts that one in four people living with cancer suffer from depression.

“Depressive symptoms are common in even years for cancer survivors after treatment is over,” said Heiddis Valdimarsdóttir of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the United States.

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

Light therapy has been tested as a way to reduce depression after cancer with the results of the research being announced at the American Psychosomatic Society.

In the research, 54 cancer survivors were randomly assigned into two groups, one group with bright white light and the other red light. Each person was given a light box which they were to use for half an hour each morning for four weeks. The symptoms of depression and circadian activity were measured before, during and three months after the end of using the light box.

The participants exposed to the bright white light were seen to have an improvement in their depression whereas those who experienced the red light saw no change in symptoms.

“Our results suggest light therapy, therapy rather noninvasive, can provide an innovative way to reduce depression among cancer survivors,” said William Redd of Icahn School of Medicine.

 

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