Health experts say that melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain when we sleep; in fact that brain only makes melatonin at night while we sleep in order to regulate our sleep cycles. And many believe that taking a melatonin supplement can actually help to improve sleep quality.
A new study, however, suggests that melatonin might may provide at least one more benefit. Experts now speculate that a lack of melatonin might put women at a higher risk for breast cancer.
It is an interesting theory; after all, today’s society is more sleep-deprived—and more toxic—than ever. That combination, then, could be a solid reason for the increase in breast cancer cases.
The Michigan State University study showed that melatonin can, in fact, suppress breast cancer stem cell growth. For the study, the research team grew tumors from breast cancer stem cells—which are known as mammospheres—and enhanced them with chemicals that encourage tumor growth. These are hormones like estrogen, and the estrogen-like chemical bisphenol, common to plastic food packaging.
Sure enough, they found that treatment with melatonin can significantly decrease the number and the size of mammospheres. But they also found that when the estrogen/BPA stimulated cells were also treated with melatonin simultaneously, tumor reduction was even greater.
According to study co-author Professor David Arnosti: “You can watch bears in the zoo, but you only understand bear behavior by seeing them in the wild.” The Michigan State University’s Gene Expression in Development and Disease Initiative director goes on to say, “Similarly, understanding the expression of genes in their natural environment reveals how they interact in disease settings. That’s what is so special about this work.”
Michigan State University researcher Dr. James Trosko also comments, “This work establishes the principal by which cancer stem cell growth may be regulated by natural hormones, and provides an important new technique to screen chemicals for cancer-promoting effects, as well as identify potential new drugs for use in the clinic.”
The results of this study have been published in the scientific journal Genes and Cancer.
On another note, a related study has been published in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that melatonin can encourage lower blood pressure in women, at night.