I Have Always Believed in Melatonin
Prevent Prostate Cancer? The Power of Melatonin
By James P. Meschino, DC, MS
Research suggests the hormone melatonin, which plays a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, may play a role in the development of prostate cancer, as lower melatonin levels have been associated with an increased risk of prostate (and breast) cancer.
This evidence includes a recent studypresented at the American Association for Cancer Research – Prostate Cancer Foundation Conference on Advances in Prostate Cancer Research in January 2014. In this study, a strong association was shown between urine levels of the main breakdown product of melatonin, 6-sulfatoxymelatonin, and risk of prostate cancer.
Compelling Recent Evidence
Researchers conducted a case-cohort study of 928 Icelandic men from the AGES-Reykjavik cohort between 2002 and 2009. They collected first-morning-void urine samples and asked the participants to answer a questionnaire about sleep patterns.
The researchers found that one in seven men reported problems falling asleep, one in five men reported problems staying asleep and almost one in three reported taking sleeping medications. The median value of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in the study participants was 17.14 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of urine. Men who reported taking medications for sleep, problems falling asleep and problems staying asleep had significantly lower 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels compared with men who did not report sleep problems.
were diagnosed with prostate cancer, including 24 with advanced disease. The researchers found that men whose 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels were higher than the median value (17.14 ng/ml) had a 75 percent decreased risk for advanced prostate cancer. Additionally, a 31 percent decreased risk for prostate cancer overall was observed in men with higher 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels.
Sleep Cycles and Prostate Cancer Risk
The body’s circadian pacemaker, located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus, is a major determinant of the timing, duration and structure of sleep. Upon darkness, melatonin is released from the pineal gland, but this function requires an intact projection from the circadian pacemaker in the SCN to the pineal gland via the superior cervical ganglion. Severance of the superior cervical ganglion, as occurs in quadriplegia, has been shown to abolish melatonin production.
In support of the melatonin-prostate cancer link, individuals who sleep in rooms with less darkness, and/or shift workers who experience disrupted circadian pacemaker function and less darkness during sleep, have been shown to have lower melatonin levels and a greater risk of prostate cancer (and breast cancer) in some studies.
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