Breast cancer and light; strokes in women

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
February 19, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
There is new information Wednesday about why more middle-age women are having strokes. There is also an intriguing new study about light and breast cancer.Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Researchers who try to find out what causes breast cancer have long been intrigued by some findings which suggest that light exposure might play a role. The study out today does not confirm that, but it does add weight to the hypothesis.

The researchers looked at cancer registries, at the number of women with breast cancer.

They then looked at neighborhoods with large amounts of nighttime light and found those areas had they highest numbers of women with the diagnosis.

In previous studies, nurses and other night workers have been shown to have a higher incidence of breast cancer.

So the theory is that the hormone melatonin might be involved. The hormone protects against tumors, but drops down in the presence of light.

The research was done is Israel.

In other news, there's a new finding about why stroke rates are rising in middle-aged women.

The reason is the increase in obesity, according to researchers at a stroke conference.

Dr. Amytis Towfighi compared two surveys of women conducted 10 years apart. The rise in rates of women in their late 30s, 40s and early 50s suffering strokes was associated with a larger waist size.

"We were surprised, because we thought that other factors, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure would be playing a role of increasing the stroke risk in women," she said. "And the only factor that was really playing a role was abdominal obesity and obesity in general."

Erica Jara has taken the preventive measures recommended for women in this risk category. She lost 70 pounds and continues to maintain her lifestyle changes. She watches what she eats and is also exercising and going to a gym.

"I feel so much better about myself, and oh it was just so many positive effects," she said. "So I still continue to go."

Dr. Towfighi says the study is an important red flag.

"With obesity comes some cardiovascular risk and the risk of stroke," she said. "And the risk of stroke is going to increase in the coming years if we cant curb the obesity epidemic in the United States."

The American Stroke Association says controlling high blood pressure, not smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke, are also key in stroke prevention.

To find out your risk of stroke, take the American Heart Association's "Go Red Heart Check-Up at