Can a Sleep Aid Help Fight Cancer?
Melatonin is not just useful for those nights when you can’t fall asleep. There have been numerous studies to show that melatonin can stimulate the immune system, slow tumor growth, destroy cancer cells and treat side effects from traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, the retina, and your gastrointestinal system.
When you sleep, melatonin is released (when it detects darkness) to help you sleep longer and more deeply. But it also acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which boosts your immune system. So while you’re sleeping, your body is naturally working to improve your health.
Melatonin levels also peak after eating, which is partly why you may feel sleepy after a meal.
Melatonin and cancer
- Has also been found to regulate estrogen, which is helpful against estrogen-induced cancers – breast, endometrial and uterine.
- Linked to the formation of white blood cells (including t-cells) in bone marrow. This is important because white blood cells protect the body from infection and some even attack cancer cells
- Can induce apoptosis (cancer cell death)
- Exhibits natural oncostatic activity to stop cancer cell growth.
- Inhibits metastasis (spreading of cancer)
While the optimal dose of melatonin for treating different types of cancer has not yet been established, the many clinical studies…have shown that doses of 10-50 mg of melatonin nightly are beneficial to cancer patients (source).
Researchers have studied the effects of melatonin on cancer.
In a 2015 meta-analysis by the University of Copenhagen…the chances of cancer survival rose from 28% to 52% in patients supplementing with melatonin. Professor Mogens Claesson said that the problem was that melatonin was cheap, with little chance of a patent so Pharmaceutical companies were simply not interested in it, resulting in limited research and awareness (source).
Also, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America teamed up with Life Extension to collaborate on ongoing trials. They have found:
Few people realize that melatonin is a cancer-killing hormone that can enhance the human immune system protect against the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and improve wound healing after cancer surgery. Even fewer are aware of ongoing clinical trials in which melatonin is being used to help cancer patients better manage their disease symptoms, improve their quality of life, and even increase their survival rates.
Lower melatonin levels and a higher breast cancer risk are continuing to be studied:
Evidence for a relationship between melatonin production and cancer risk is accumulating from several more recent nested case-control studies and is further supported by indirect evidence from observational studies of night workers, in whom a higher breast and endometrial cancer risk has been described (source)
Melatonin and chemotherapy
Melatonin can also be used in addition to traditional cancer treatments. According to Susan G. Komen, “Melatonin is also used for some of the side effects of cancer treatment (chemotherapy) including weight loss, nerve pain, weakness, and a lowered number of clot-forming cells (thrombocytopenia).”
It has been described as an essential part of cancer treatment for breast, ovarian, endometrial, prostate, testicular, colorectal, and brain cancers.
“Although it requires more and larger studies before we can say with certainty that melatonin has a real and positive impact on cancer patients, published research so far has shown positive results, and it is worth looking into. These results are almost too good to be true”, says Professor Thomas Benfield MD from the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.