Circadian Rhythm and Your HealthMay 17, 2018
Interviewee: Helmut Zarbl, Ph.D.
Did you know that many of the processes in your body operate on a 24-hour cycle? This cycle, called the circadian rhythm, controls important functions in the body, such as hormone production and sleep patterns. The circadian rhythm is largely controlled by the normal pattern of light and darkness we experience in a day. But our circadian rhythm – and the processes it controls – can become disrupted if we are exposed to artificial light during nighttime hours. Disruption of the circadian rhythm has been linked to a range of health problems, including obesity, mood disorders, and cancer.
In this podcast, Helmut Zarbl, Ph.D., discusses his research on circadian rhythms, and highlights why people who work night shifts and are frequently exposed to nighttime light have increased rates of certain types of cancer. We’ll also learn tips for maintaining a normal, healthy circadian rhythm and getting a good night’s sleep.
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Helmut Zarbl, Ph.D., directs the NIEHS Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease and the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at Rutgers University. He also serves as chair of the Rutgers Department of Environmental and Occupational Health where he promotes the development of innovative educational programming to prepare students for careers as public health researchers and practitioners.
Zarbl’s research focuses on how genetic and environmental factors influence the development of cancer and other chronic diseases. His research on the circadian rhythm has led to important discoveries about how shift work and exposure to light at night may increase risk of breast and prostate cancer, and how a dietary supplement may reduce this risk. He is the author of more than 85 research papers and book chapters.
- Review the National Toxicology Program evaluation of Night Shift Work and Light at Night for the Report on Carcinogens.
- Read a short article summarizing the scientific evidence that led the International Agency for Research on Cancer to declare shift work a probable carcinogen.
- See the Circadian Rhythms Factsheet from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
- Read Tick Tock: Your Body Clocks, an article from the National Institutes of Health monthly newsletter.
- Check out Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep, a webpage from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
- Watch a 1-minute video to hear more from Dr. Zarbl about circadian rhythm and cancer.