Volume 4, Issue 14
April 7, 2011

Sleep well and kill cancer
at the same time

As you may have experienced, getting a good night’s sleep gets tougher as you age. Worse, the chances of getting cancer go up dramatically the older we get. Are these two problems related? New research suggests they are. And there may be one simple and easy way to deal with both of them.

It has to do with the hormone melatonin. Yes, I know. Everyone thinks of melatonin simply as a sleep aid. But there’s much more to it than that.

Your brain produces melatonin in the pineal gland in response to darkness. Not long after you turn out the lights, your brain starts to release melatonin and you will begin to fall asleep. But that’s not all that will happen. The melatonin you make will cause you to go into the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. The kind of sleep that when you wake up, you know you’re going to have a high-energy day.

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Unfortunately, as with all things biological, the older we get, the less melatonin our brains make. By the time we reach 80 years old, we make about 10% of what we made when we were young. And, according to the authors of the study I’m going to tell you about, this fact not only accounts for the increase in insomnia and fatigue that happens as we age. It also could account for the increase in cancer, particularly prostate cancer.

Researchers in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, studied the effects of melatonin on prostate cancer cells. They used two different cell lines. One was the LnCaP cells. The other was the PC3 cells. Both of these cell lines are human prostate cancer cells. The LnCaP cells are prostate cancer cells that are hormone sensitive. That means that the hormone testosterone stimulates their growth. The PC3 cells are not hormone sensitive.  What they found should make us older guys sleep a little better.

The study looked at what happened to the growth rate of both kinds of cells when researchers exposed them to varying doses of melatonin. According to the researchers, “Melatonin treatment dramatically reduced the number of prostate cancer cells and stopped cell cycle progression in both LnCaP and PC3 cells.” That means that no matter whether the prostate cancer cells were sensitive to testosterone or not, melatonin stopped them all.

So what can you do? For the past 15 years, I have advised all of my patients over the age of 50 to take 3 mg of melatonin every night before they go to bed. I tell them to do this whether or not they have sleep problems. Every now and then I find that 3 mg is too much. It causes them to have restless sleep and/or be drowsy or groggy in the morning. When that happens, we just reduce the dose to the highest dose tolerable.

Because of this study and others like it, I can tell them that they are not only going to sleep better, they are also going to reduce their chances of getting prostate cancer at the same time.

By the way, the data is also strong that melatonin has the same kind of cancer killing effect on breast cancer cells.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: Sainz RM, Mayo JC, Tan DX, León J, Manchester L, Reiter RJ. Melatonin reduces prostate cancer cell growth leading to neuroendocrine differentiation via a receptor and PKA independent mechanism. Prostate. 2005 Apr 1;63(1):29-43.

Copyright 2011 Soundview Publishing, LLC

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