~ Higher Urinary Melatonin Level Associated with Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

A report published in the July 20 2005 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (http://jncicancerspectrum.oxfordjournals.org/) revealed a correlation between greater levels of a metabolite of melatonin in the urine and a lowered risk of invasive breast cancer in women. The metabolite, 6- sulphatoxymelatonin, is highly correlated with blood and salivary melatonin levels.

Eva S. Schernhammer and Susan E. Hankinson of Harvard University evaluated 438 participants in the Nursesí Health Study II, which enrolled 116,671 female nurses between the ages of 25 and 42 in 1989. The current study compared 147 women with invasive breast cancer and 291 matched controls who had agreed to participate in a substudy in which blood and urine samples were collected. First morning urine samples were used for 6-sulphatoxymelatonin measurement.

Drs Shernhammer and Hankinson found a strong inverse correlation between the risk of invasive breast cancer and urinary melatonin levels. Women whose melatonin levels were in the highest one-fourth of participants experienced a 41 percent lower risk of invasive breast cancer than those whose levels were in the lowest fourth. Those whose melatonin levels placed them in the second and third quarters also experienced a risk reduction compared to women in the lowest fourth. When women who worked at night (a factor that has been linked with an elevated risk of breast cancer) were excluded from the analysis, the risk remained basically the same.

The authors summarize their findings by stating that melatonin secretion may play an important role in breast cancer development. This study contributes to a growing body of evidence concerning the role that decreased melatonin production plays in breast cancer risk.

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