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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Jet Lag and Some Chemotherapy Side Effects May Share Treatments


To reduce the effects of jet lag, light therapy is used by some doctors to try to manipulate the biological clock. They expose people to special lights, many times brighter than ordinary household light, for several hours near the time the subjects want to wake up. This helps them reset their biological clocks and adjust to a new time zone.

As for melatonin, Medical College of Wisconsin researchers warn that since the high doses of melatonin found in most over-the-counter supplements can build up in the body, long-term use of this substance may create new problems. Because the potential side effects of melatonin supplements are still largely unknown, most experts discourage melatonin use by the general public.

However, Morrow believes it's worth exploring whether daily supplements of melatonin may improve symptoms of fatigue in cancer patients.

Ngina Lythcott, PhD, breast cancer liaison from the National Black Women's Health Project, tells WebMD that fatigue and depression don't get the same attention that is given to treatment and prevention, even though they are very common among women who receive chemotherapy. Lythcott is also an associate dean at Columbia University's School of Public Health in New York.

She says she's glad that timing -- and body rhythms -- are emerging as very important characteristics to consider when physicians schedule screening, detection, and treatments. With this new research, she sees great promise in correlating body rhythms to therapy. "I can see that, eventually, higher circadian rhythms will help dictate daily patterns of rest and activity. I find that very exciting, and I hope the research in circadian rhythms continues."

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