~ Melatonin's Effect on Cancer Patients Indicates Improved Survival

First ever meta-analysis of melatonin's effect on cancer patients indicates improved survival.

The results of a meta-analysis of clinical trials examining the effects of melatonin on individuals being treated for cancer were presented at the 20th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, held August 24 through 26 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona. The report, entitled, "Melatonin in the Treatment of Cancer: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials and Meta-Analysis", is currently under peer review by a medical journal.

Melatonin is a hormone manufactured by the pineal gland in the brain that has an effect on the body's wake/sleep cycle. The results of some studies have suggested that melatonin may exert a protective effect against cancer, and that it may also be of benefit during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Lead author Leslie Axelrod and her Canadian colleagues searched medical databases for reports that provided the results of randomized controlled trials of melatonin combined with other treatments in cancer patients with solid tumors, including data on one year survival. Ten reports published between 1992 and 2003 that provided information on trials conducted in Italy and Poland met the researchers' criteria. The studies enrolled a combined total of 643 men and women of varying ages.

The researchers found a consistent benefit across all melatonin dosages on one year survival when the hormone was tried as an adjunct therapy in a variety of advanced stage cancers. Compared to those who did not receive the hormone, those who received melatonin had a 44 percent lower risk of death one year following their trial enrollment. Although the meta-analysis had its limitations, the authors concluded that "the substantial reduction in risk of death, low adverse events reported and low costs related to this intervention suggest great potential for melatonin in treating cancer."

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