Profile: Richard Stevens
Professor, School of Medicine
Dr. Stevens has been working for a long time trying to help figure out why people get cancer. One of his major interests has been in the possible role of iron overload. Largely on the basis of his work, published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute and the New England Journal of Medicine, the Swedish food industry decided to cease iron fortification of flour in the early 1990s. A perplexing challenge, which Stevens began to engage in the late 1970s, is the confounding mystery of why breast cancer risk rises so dramatically as societies industrialize. He proposed in 1987 a radical new theory that use of electric lighting, resulting in lighted nights, might produce 'circadian disruption' causing changes in the hormones relevant to breast cancer risk. Accumulating evidence has generally supported the idea, and it has received wide scientific and public attention. For example, his work has been featured on the covers of the popular weekly Science News (October 17, 1998) and the scientific journal Cancer Research (July 15, 1996). As well as more recent stuff, like now.
NoteStreams By Richard Stevens
It is almost unique among the common cancers of the world in that there is not a known major cause; there is no consensus among experts that proof of a major cause has been identified.
Category: Social Awareness
The blame for sleep deprivation is often pinned on our fast-paced, 24/7 lifestyle, made possible by electric lighting at all times of day and night.
Iron is a most versatile element. It is essential to many of the enzymes that are the engines for life, and in mammals is also used to carry oxygen on hemoglobin in blood. Remember Popeye and his spinach: all that iron made him strong. But the very quality that makes iron so useful also makes it dangerous. Iron can easily lose or gain one electron going from the ferrous (Fe++) to the ferric (Fe+++) state, back and forth indefinitely. This is how it carries oxygen, for example. It also means it can be a potent pro-oxidant – it catalyzes the production of free radicals which can destroy cells and tissue, and thereby contribute to cancer and heart disease.