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Sleep hormone increases the effect of medication against breast cancer

Sleep hormone increases the effect of medication against breast cancerMelatonin is primarily for its role as a sleep hormone. However, it also increases the effect of tamoxifen and reduces side effects in the aftercare of breast cancer. Science has known about melatonin's cancer preventative properties for quite some time, and by embedding the hormone in small "lipid bubbles", tamoxifen is able to destroy even more breast cancer cells, according to Iranian research.

Melatonin is a potent hormone, both in terms of cancer prevention and as an adjuvant in the treatment of various types of cancer. According to a study from Tabriz University of Medical Sciences in Iran, it is possible to enhance the effect of melatonin by embedding it in small lipid bubbles called nanostructured lipid carriers (NLC), which slow down the release of melatonin in the bloodstream. According to the Iranian scientists, this new nanotechnology may help:

  • improve the effect of tamoxifen
  • increase the number of killed off cancer cells
  • reduce the need for tamoxifen
  • lower the side effects of tamoxifen
  • reduce the risk of tamoxifen-resistant cancer cells

Tamoxifen is linked to side effects and resistance

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. As part of the aftercare treatment for the disease, patients are typically offered tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen that inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells. Tamoxifen, however, is associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer, stroke, pulmonary embolism, vision problems, and more common side effects such as irregular periods, hot flushes, hair loss, and weight loss. Also, there is a risk that the breast cancer cells become resistant to tamoxifen, causing it to lose its effect.
The scientists have therefore focused on solving both the problems: The side effects and the resistance. Melatonin appears to be the solution, so this natural hormone deserves a lot more attention, both in the prevention of cancer and also as part of the treatment against breast cancer and other cancer forms.

Melatonin's anti-cancer effects

Melatonin regulates all cells in the body. Throughout our entire lifespan, this hormone controls our day-and-night rhythm, our sleep, and many other general physiological processes. Melatonin also has a powerful antioxidant effect and protects our cells and repairs cell damage during our sleep. Melatonin is primarily produced in the pineal gland in the brain. However, the production decreases as we grow older. There is evidence suggesting that this increases our risk of several cancer types.
Research conducted over the past 50 years has shown that melatonin has several cancer preventive properties and cancer-fighting effects that set in if the disease occurs. In order for this to happen, however, it requires adequate levels of melatonin.
Because several years may pass from the time the first cell changes appear until a tumor is observed, melatonin's role in cancer prevention and self-healing of the body has a large and underestimated role.

Melatonin's anti-cancer properties

  • Works as a powerful antioxidant that protects the membranes and DNA of cells
  • Boosts the immune system and helps the white blood cells attack cancer cells
  • Counteracts inflammation that exhausts the immune system and causes damage to cells
  • Counteracts uncontrolled cell growth
  • Enhances programmed cell death (apoptosis)
  • Controls growth-promoting hormones such as estradiol                                                                                                                                                                                                           

This is why melatonin and tamoxifen work as a powerful team

There is evidence suggesting a synergy effect between melatonin and tamoxifen. First of all, melatonin has several anti-cancer effects. Secondly, both melatonin and tamoxifen have different mechanisms that control the estrogen balance, which is relevant for hormone-related cancers such as certain types of breast cancer.

Nano bubbles (NLC) may revolutionize several types of cancer treatment

It appears that melatonin breaks down fast in the body. Therefore, it has been necessary to continue the cancer treatment every four hours using regular melatonin supplements or melatonin injections. By embedding melatonin in small lipid bubbles (nano-structured lipid carriers or NLC), however, Dr. Samadi and his team have managed to test an increased effect of melatonin. Also, the scientists tested the empty NLC bubbles and found that they did not have a toxic effect on the surrounding tissues, which is very important, as several nanostructures have been shown to be toxic to the body.
The science team now plans on testing their NLCs on other cancer cells before moving from animal studies to human studies. Still, as described above, it seems that melatonin generally has several potent functions in the fight against cancer, and these could easily be utilized much better before science gets around to testing NLCs on humans.

Melatonin increases the chance of surviving cancer

Several foreign studies have shown that melatonin has a positive effect on the treatment of breast cancer. According to a Danish research article published in the journal Ugeskrift for Læger in 2015, supplements of melatonin may increase the destructive impact of chemotherapy on cancer cells and help reduce the numerous side effects. By combining chemotherapy with melatonin, it is possible to increase the chance of surviving a cancer disease from 28.4 to 52.2 percent in a year.

Antioxidants like melatonin are important against cancer

Most carcinogens generate free radicals or cause the body to produce these potentially harmful compounds. For that reason, we need powerful antioxidants - including melatonin (which no other antioxidant is able to replace). Another substance that interests science is the trace element selenium.


Elsevier: Sleep hormone help breast cancer drug kill more cancer cells. ScienceDaily 2016

Vinter, Anna Gry, Mogens Helweg Claësson: Melatonins indvirkning på immunsystem og cancer. Ugeskrift for Læger 2015

Christensen, Bo Karl: Melatonins effekt på kræft "næsten for god til at være sand". 2015

Sanches-Barcelo EJ et al. Melatonin uses in oncology: breast cancer prevention and reduction of the side effSects of chemotherapy and radiation. Expert Opin Investig Drugs 2012

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