(Health Secrets) Melatonin is nature’s sleeping pill. It is secreted by the light sensitive pineal gland which regulates our biological clock and synchronizes our hormonal-immune network in what is known as the circadian rhythm. Our level of melatonin naturally rises with darkness and falls with light. According to Dr. Uzzi Reiss, in his book Natural Hormone Balance, a healthy pineal gland produces 2.5 milligrams of melatonin every twenty-four hours. Melatonin plays a central role in the aging processes of the body. When pineal production of melatonin begins to diminish at around age 40, the decline sets off changes in the operation of the body’s cells. The physiology of the cell shifts from repair and rejuvenation to aging and degeneration.
Recent studies show that as our levels of melatonin sink, our risk of breast cancer rises. Many women with breast cancer have lower levels of melatonin than those without the disease. Research investigations have indicated that lower levels of melatonin stimulate growth of breast cancer cells. Adding melatonin to breast cancer cells inhibits their growth.
Breast cancer and melatonin: studies and results
Recently scientists at Tulane University School of Medicine published a data review article discussing recent research into melatonin-mediated circadian regulation and integration of signaling mechanisms involved in human breast cancer growth. (1) In this discussion they included the associated consequences of circadian disruption by exposure to light at night. They cited the following research conclusions:
*The melatonin circadian signal produces strong anti-proliferative effects in the breast.
*In estrogen receptor-positive human breast cancer cells, melatonin suppresses estrogen receptor RNA expression and estrogen-induced activity and signaling.
*Melatonin reduces breast cancer risk by regulating gene transcriptional activity, enzymes involved in estrogen metabolism, and the expression of genes related to the circadian rhythm.
*The anti-invasive and anti-metastatic actions of melatonin involve specific gene protection.
*Melatonin down regulates the activation of growth factor pathways supporting breast cancer cell proliferation and survival.
*Disruption of the melatonin signaling activities that are part of the circadian rhythm by having a light on at night activates human breast cancer growth, metabolism, and signaling. (This is why studies have shown that women who work night shifts have an elevated breast cancer risk).
In addition to these conclusions, other studies have shown:
*Melatonin increases the survival time of animals with untreated breast tumors.
*Melatonin inhibits the growth of breast tumors by decreasing the ability of breast cells to carry on aromatase activity.
Supplementing with melaton
Since production of melatonin by the pineal gland begins to decline at age 40, anyone over the age of 40 may be melatonin deficient and may benefit from supplementation. Melatonin as a natural preventive offers much broader actions against breast cancer than are found with tamoxifen, the preventive now offered by the cancer drug industry. And it offers them safely.
Melatonin is produced while you sleep, so if you do not get enough sleep, your levels of melatonin may be deficient. Enough sleep is eight hours. Supplementing with melatonin may also be indicated for those who now have or once had breast cancer.
Your melatonin level can be measured with a simple blood test. According to Dr. Reiss, you should not take melatonin supplements if you have exhausted adrenal glands, the symptoms of which are constant fatigue, low blood pressure, feeling faint when standing up, and low tolerance for physical and emotional stress. Melatonin can reduce the production of cortisol and would be contraindicated for this condition. When adrenal glands are again healthy, supplementation can be started. Women who are trying to conceive should not take melatonin as it could impact the ovulation process. Melatonin supplements are naturally created to be bioidentical meaning they are indistinguishable in your body from the melatonin you naturally produce.
For anti-aging, Dr. Reiss recommends starting with 0.5 milligrams and increasing the dose gradually until you notice a side effect. The optimal dose according to him is usually 1 to 5 milligrams.
Side effects from excess melatonin are drowsiness upon waking, wild dreams, or waking up nervous, sweating, or with palpitations. These rapidly disappear when the dose is decreased.
There is disagreement among authorities as to whether higher doses of melatonin should be recommended for cancer prevention. Dr. Reiss recommends 20 to 40 milligrams daily for prevention. He notes that participants in studies using these very high doses did not develop the side effects seen at lower doses.
Dr. John Lee, in his book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer, says that high melatonin levels reduce the ovarian production of estrogen and progesterone, and this is the feedback that is thought to be protective against breast cancer. He stresses that all the body’s hormones must be in balance, and more is not better when it comes to melatonin. He recommends supplementing with 1 gram of melatonin taken sublingually just before bedtime.
If you have chosen to rely on you own production of melatonin, be aware that this production rises from early evening until the middle of the night, and then slowly declines throughout the rest of the night. Evening production is negatively impacted by bright light, such as from a TV or computer screen. Night time melatonin production is dependent on you sleeping in a dark room. If you get up during the night and turn on a light or open the refrigerator door, your melatonin production will abruptly stop, and you may be at risk of activating breast cancer cell growth.
If you are unable to sleep through the night, you are probably low on the steroid hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, a condition that works with low melatonin levels to give you breast cancer. See a doctor who specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement or anti-aging medicine to bring all your hormones back to optimal levels and balance.
For more information:
Melatonin and Associated Signaling Pathways that Control Normal Breast Epithelium and Breast Cancer. Hill, SM, Blask, DE, Xiang S, Yuan L, Mao L, Dauchy RT, Dauchy EM, Frasch T, Duplesis T. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2011 Sep;16(3):235-45.