Like most people, you’ve probably heard of melatonin. In fact, you may even take the supplement each night since it’s a commonly used natural, over-the-counter sleep aid. Now, however, research has found that melatonin may be doing far more than just helping you get the restful sleep you need. It may guard you against cancer.
And, according to research published in the Journal of Pineal Research, the natural sleep hormone could be especially effective against three specific cancers…
Pro-sleep but anti-tumor
Past lab trials have declared melatonin to have anti-tumor properties. And additional scientific research has found that low levels of melatonin go hand in hand with a heightened risk for cancer.
All of this got Brazilian researchers wondering not only why melatonin would halt cancer development, but also which cancers it worked best against.
So the team set up a wide-ranging and pretty much all-encompassing study.
First, they conducted what’s called a meta-analysis. This is when researchers comb through all of the available research on a subject. Specifically, they were trying to find out how melatonin works in conjunction with microRNA expression to battle cancer.
Next, the researchers used bioinformatics to identify pathways associated with the hormone’s action on tumor cells.
And here’s the conclusion of all of their hard work…
- Most tumor cells have low levels of melatonin.
- Lab trials show that melatonin increases tumor cell death and reduces tumor cell proliferation — stopping cancer progression and metastasis.
- In animals treated with 40 milligrams of melatonin, there was an enrichment of signaling pathways related to the immune system and apoptosis (normal cell death that keeps cells from going haywire and beginning the cancer cascade) and a reduction of pathways associated with tumor aggressiveness and metastasis.
- Melatonin targets genes important to cancer’s biological processes, including cell cycle regulation, cell death, cell migration and senescence (cell deterioration).
In other words, melatonin not only helps ward off cancer by helping old cells die like they’re supposed to, but it also helps increase the death of cancerous cells, inhibits cancer from spreading and lowers the ability of tumor cells to become aggressive.
Not bad for a natural hormone, right?
According to the team, the cancers that melatonin is most effective against are breast, oral and stomach cancers.
On the other hand, they say that prostate and colorectal tumors, as well as glioblastoma, showed few changes.
Melatonin lovers rejoice!
So, if you’re already taking melatonin to help you sleep — no need to stop. In fact, the benefits you receive from the natural hormone may have just gone through the roof.
And if you don’t already take it, but would like to start, there’s never been a better time.
Just remember, it does increase sleepiness (that’s why it’s in all of those sleep-aids). So only take it when you’re ready to get some ZZZs.
The maximum recommended dose is 10 mg at bedtime. While the researchers gave the study animals 40 mg, that much isn’t recommended for people on a regular basis.
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How Much Melatonin Should You Really Be Taking? — Sleep.org