A simple but effective way to fight symptoms of depression in cancer patients


Simple but effective

A research-team at Mount Sinai hospital in New York has received great attention recently after proving the effectiveness of a simple way to reduce effects of depression and fatigue for cancer patients. Dr. Heiðdís Valdimarsdóttir is a professor of psychology at Reykjavik University and a part of the Icahn School of Medicine research team at Mount Sinai. Over the last 30 years, Heiðdís has conducted research stateside in health psychology and examined the effects of cancer treatment on the life of patients and their families. 

Positive results

The online version of the Wall Street Journal published an article about the research recently. In the article, participants in the study discuss the effects of the simple light treatment. They sat in front of a light box that shone a bright, white light at them for half an hour a day for four weeks. The participants could perform daily tasks such as reading e-mails or watching the TV news while undergoing the treatment. A total of 54 cancer patients enrolled. About half of them used the strong, white light and the other half a faint, red light. The results showed that the bright, white light treatment significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

Continuing research

The impact of light in treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been known for years. This is however the first study that focuses on cancer in this context. This treatment is proven to work with both depression and fatigue in cancer patients and could be an addition to more conventional methods of psychotherapy. Heiðdís and her colleagues have received a 3.4 million dollar grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for further research. 

Heiðdís with colleagues and students in the Sun.