The potential of melatonin for the treatment of cancer is compelling, according to a new study that suggests cancer funding agencies should support clinical trials into its efficacy.

Melatonin’s link with cancer has been shown in several studies correlating shift work with cancer rates.

A new study in the Journal of Pineal Research reviewed all clinical trials on the role of melatonin for treating solid tumor cancers and found evidence of its potential.

A news release reports:

The authors reviewed 10 randomized clinical trials that included a total of 643 cancer patients with a variety of different solid tumor cancers. The types of cancers involved included lung, brain, skin, renal and breast cancer. “In this analysis, the effects appeared to be consistent across studies” say the authors. The researchers examined the effect of large doses of melatonin (10-40mg/day) on survival rates at one year. Melatonin reduced the risk of death at one year by 34%. “Effects this large certainly warrant further clinical trials” say the authors. The study also showed that melatonin was predominantly safe and had a beneficial effect on sleep patterns of patients.

All of the clinical trials involved in their study were from Europe from a related network of clinical researchers in Italy and Poland. The researchers, from McMaster University and the University of Toronto in Canada, say that their analysis also shows that clinical trials in North America should have been initiated back in 1996/7 as the results from Europe were consistent at that time. The Canadian researchers urge caution in interpreting the immediate clinical usefulness of large doses of melatonin and recommend patients discuss this with their physicians before beginning any treatments.

Dr. Dugald Seely, a cancer researcher at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto and an author on the study, states, “This analysis shows a strong association. The small number of people needed to treat, low adverse events reported and low costs related to this intervention should be of substantial interest to patients, physicians and policy makers. Completion of independently conducted studies is required to confirm the efficacy and safety of melatonin in cancer treatment.”

More here.