Study looks at the anticancer potential of melatonin

Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, is best known for its sleep-promoting effect. But did you know that it also has potential cancer-fighting effects? Researchers from Iran reviewed the anticancer properties of melatonin and concluded that melatonin has powerful cancer-fighting properties.

Published in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, the review looked at the molecular anti-angiogenesis pathways brought about by melatonin and the responsible processes in different forms of cancers both in animal studies and laboratory testing.

Melatonin has been reported to have multiple biological activities, including antitumor action. As a supplement, melatonin exerts its cancer-protective effects by inhibiting angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is a process where new blood vessels are formed from old ones; it is naturally connected to organism development and life. This process plays a huge part in the progression of tumors. Regulation of angiogenesis is considered to be a potential cure when growth and deformation of cells occur, as increased angiogenesis is a primary feature of tumor progression.

Researchers found that melatonin inhibits angiogenesis by targeting the nutrients and oxygen supply of cancer cells. It primarily targets hypoxia-induced factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha) and the genes under its control, such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Melatonin inhibits HIF-1alpha translocation and endothelial cell migration, invasion, and tube formation.

With these findings, the researchers conclude that melatonin inhibits angiogenesis to fight cancer.


Other ways melatonin wards off cancer

Often called as the “pacemaker” of the body, melatonin is a hormone that works together with the pineal gland to help regulate the internal clock of the body, informing the body what time of the day and what time of the year it is. Melatonin and the pineal gland help in regulating circadian rhythms and the sleep-cycle. Melatonin also affects almost every cell in the body. Melatonin has also been reported to be a tumor suppressor for different forms of cancer, including breast cancer. Different researchers have studied how melatonin protects against breast cancer, and here are some of their findings:

  • Melatonin production influences breast cancer development: In a study published in the journal Endocrine-Related Cancer, researchers examined how exposure to artificial light at night affected melatonin production and breast cancer. Based on the data they’ve gathered, the number of breast cancer cases in people who worked at night and were exposed to artificial lights was high. The researchers believe that this is partly due to melatonin’s role in regulating estrogen metabolizing enzymes and “clock-related genes.” (Related: Melatonin: A Hormone That Protects Against Breast Cancer and Aging.)
  • Melatonin puts cancer cells to sleep: Cancer researcher Dr. David E. Blask also found that melatonin can help with breast cancer prevention by putting cancer cells to sleep. He found that nighttime melatonin levels in the blood can hamper breast cancer growth by 70 percent.
  • Melatonin helps manage estrogen levels: A 2012 Australian study found that melatonin helps regulate estrogen by reducing estrogen-responsive genes. It wards off harmful xenoestrogens and inhibits estrogen production in breast adipose fibroblasts (BAFs) to prevent estrogen overdose. BAFs create the dense mass that is present around malignant breast epithelial cells and are the primary source of estrogen in brain tumors among postmenopausal women.
  • Melatonin causes cancer cell death: Chinese researchers revealed that melatonin induces cell death by inhibiting specific proteins and signaling pathways.
  • Melatonin strengthens the immune system: Melatonin also boosts the immune system, which is important for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer and other diseases. Researchers found that melatonin works as an antioxidant and helps promote the production of T-helper cells in the body. In 2011, researchers from India found that melatonin is beneficial to people with breast cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, or melanoma.

Read more news stories and studies on potential anticancer treatments by going to

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