Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
The supplement melatonin is well-known for its benefits in helping people sleep, but could it also be beneficial for helping keep breast cancer from returning? Evidence shows this might be the case.
Sleep had never been a problem for me until after breast cancer surgery. On my first night home, I found myself tossing and turning as I tried to get comfortable. Forced to sleep uncomfortably on my back because of my recent mastectomies, sleep took its time coming. Since that day, my nights have been difficult, and I've continued having trouble sleeping.
After talking with my doctor about my sleep disturbances, he suggested I try taking melatonin. At that point, I was willing to try anything, so I began with a dose of 5 milligrams. It seemed to work for a while, but then I started waking in the middle of the night. The doctor suggested I increase the dosage to 10 milligrams and so far, it's been working well to help me sleep through the night.
For the past four years, I've continued taking melatonin to promote sleep, but I've recently learned it may actually slow the growth of some kinds of breast cancer, and might also help shrink breast cancer tumors.
Our bodies create the hormone melatonin. It helps control our internal body clock and helps regulate our circadian rhythm. To understand how melatonin works, we need to take a look inside our brains. A very small, light-sensitive organ called the pineal gland resides there. The pineal gland receives information from the retinas of our eyes. It pays close attention to the levels of light coming in and according to those levels, determines whether its day or night.
When it's dark, the pineal gland signals our bodies to start producing the hormone melatonin. This hormone tells our bodies it's time to sleep. Melatonin also helps control estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Since my breast cancer was fed by both estrogen and progesterone, this causes me to wonder if melatonin might be beneficial to me in helping keep breast cancer away. I have read some online medical articles that seem to indicate this may be the case. Melatonin has been shown to reduce the levels of circulating estrogen. This in turn can help slow down the growth of breast tumors, and may possibly reduce the incidence of breast cancer.
There are also preliminary lab studies that indicate melatonin may enhance the effects of some of the chemotherapy medications used to treat breast cancer. In one study, women whose tumors did not respond well to tamoxifen opted to take melatonin and found there was a low percentage of those who experienced the shrinkage of their tumors.
Not to mention, sleep problems can affect our quality of life. If you're having trouble sleeping, especially during or after breast cancer treatments, you may need to discuss this with your doctor.
Instead of opting for prescription drugs, ask your oncologist if melatonin might be beneficial for you.
After reading the information contained in this article published by the Journal of Pineal Research, I've decided to continue taking melatonin for the rest of my life as part of my alternative healing therapy regimen for breast cancer. Since it is a natural hormone produced by my body, I don't fear taking the supplement in fact, I consider myself proactive in doing everything I can to protect myself from a recurrence of breast cancer.
There have been no conclusive studies regarding melatonin and breast cancer recurrence, but hopefully, in the future, more testing will be done and research will continue.
Please be aware that melatonin is not regulated by the FDA. Many sleep products containing melatonin vary and could contain other ingredients. It's wise to always buy from a reputable source and if you're unsure, always ask your doctor for product recommendations.