This treatment modality is thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health. Melatonin should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.
What does melatonin therapy involve?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal body in the brain. Melatonin levels fluctuate throughout the day and gradually increase at night. This cycle ensures that most living things are at rest during darkness. Melatonin is also manufactured synthetically and can be administered in tablet form.
How is melatonin thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health?
Melatonin has been proposed to improve sleep quality, regulate circadian rhythms, assist the immune system in fighting infection, reduce the risk of heart disease and impact longevity. Proponents claim melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and has been found in high concentrations in the nuclei of cells, where it may serve to protect DNA from damage and mutation that can lead to cancer.
What has been proven about the benefit of melatonin?
The American Cancer Society has reviewed numerous studies of melatonin and its effects on cancer. Thirty-two studies evaluated disease response and survival when treated with melatonin in combination with chemotherapy, radiation and IL-2, an immune stimulator. Many of the studies reported increased survival times and a few others reported tumor regression when patients were treated with melatonin. Twelve studies evaluated the effects of melatonin on the immune system. Results of these studies were mixed but it appears that melatonin, when administered in conjunction with IL-2, caused an increase of immune system cell numbers. The remaining studies investigated the effects of melatonin on immune therapy induced hypotension, chemotherapy induced toxicity and cachexia. All studies generated some support for the benefits of melatonin. However, most of the studies were small and conducted by the same researcher. Without conclusive evidence, melatonin should not be thought of as a curative therapy, but rather a supportive therapy that promotes wellness and optimizes health. It may help reduce side effects of treatment and symptoms of disease.
What is the potential risk or harm of melatonin?
No adverse side effects or risks have been reported. However, the effects of long-term use of melatonin and how it interacts with other medications or supplements are unknown. The National Institute on Aging has also warned that melatonin supplements may lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and even cancer. Practitioners also caution people with severe mental illness and those taking steroid medications against using melatonin.
How much does melatonin cost?
Melatonin can be purchased at health food stores and pharmacies. One hundred 1 mg tablets cost approximately $10 to $15.
For additional information:
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Complementary/Integrative Medicine Education Resources
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, TX 77030
Telephone: (800) 392-1611
Web site: http://www.mdanderson.org/departments/cimer/
Note: Information about therapies is intended to help you make informed choices, not to endorse any particular therapy. The information is courtesy of "Integrating Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients," a handbook written as an independent study project by Heather Morein. For more information, see the full text of the handbook (PDF), including all references and appendices.