The success rates of breast cancer treatment have skyrocketed over the last few decades and we now graduate thousands of women into the “survivor” classification every year. The success of conventional treatment means that as Naturopaths, our role is to support women in staying on their conventional treatment to finish it. This is the best chance we have at a complete cure.
Women with breast cancer often approach our office with fear of the side effects, and long-term damage associated with chemotherapy or radiation. There is a significant amount of support that can be achieved when working with a Naturopath during conventional therapy.
Melatonin is an antioxidant-hormone produced when we sleep, that has been well researched to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, as well as improve the depression and insomnia that often emerges after a cancer diagnosis. Melatonin has been studied in women to support their mood and anxiety before surgery (1), to improve daytime energy and mood and quality of life after treatment (2,3).
Associations have been made between shift work and the risk of breast cancer, even further connecting this important hormone with breast cancer risk and progression (4).
Melatonin has been combined with several common conventional treatments to enhance the treatment effect. Tamoxifen may work better when combined with melatonin, and melatonin may prolong the use of this drug before drug resistance and treatment failure occur in advanced breast cancer (5,6). Other chemotherapy regimes have been studied in conjunction with melatonin with very positive results (7–10).
Melatonin can also be used topically to treat radiation induced skin damage (11). We prescribe topical melatonin compounded at the pharmacy for women undergoing breast radiation to support irritation and pain associated with radiation burns.
The use of melatonin during breast cancer therapy can improve how women feel throughout their treatment, but should be prescribed by a qualified and experienced Naturopathic Doctor. Every drug and therapy needs to be cleared against the use of any natural substance to ensure there are no possible drug interactions, or the potential to lower the effect of your conventional care. The dose of melatonin and delivery method also needs to change depending on your case, so despite the positive evidence in it’s favour, consult your ND before beginning any new treatment.
Our office communicates regularly with Oncologists, and provides letters to communicate the rationale, evidence and scope of Naturopathic Medicine to every cancer patient in our office. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with your health team, and have very successful relationships with Oncologists in the Hamilton and surrounding area.
- Hansen MV, Andersen LT, Madsen MT, Hageman I, Rasmussen LS, Bokmand S, et al. Effect of melatonin on depressive symptoms and anxiety in patients undergoing breast cancer surgery: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2014 Jun;145(3):683–95.
- Chen WY, Giobbie-Hurder A, Gantman K, Savoie J, Scheib R, Parker LM, et al. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of melatonin on breast cancer survivors: impact on sleep, mood, and hot flashes. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2014 Jun;145(2):381–8.
- Innominato PF, Lim AS, Palesh O, Clemons M, Trudeau M, Eisen A, et al. The effect of melatonin on sleep and quality of life in patients with advanced breast cancer. Support Care Cancer Off J Multinatl Assoc Support Care Cancer. 2016 Mar;24(3):1097–105.
- Lin X, Chen W, Wei F, Ying M, Wei W, Xie X. Night-shift work increases morbidity of breast cancer and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis of 16 prospective cohort studies. Sleep Med. 2015 Nov;16(11):1381–7.
- Lissoni P, Paolorossi F, Tancini G, Ardizzoia A, Barni S, Brivio F, et al. A phase II study of tamoxifen plus melatonin in metastatic solid tumour patients. Br J Cancer. 1996 Nov;74(9):1466–8.
- Lissoni P, Barni S, Meregalli S, Fossati V, Cazzaniga M, Esposti D, et al. Modulation of cancer endocrine therapy by melatonin: a phase II study of tamoxifen plus melatonin in metastatic breast cancer patients progressing under tamoxifen alone. Br J Cancer. 1995 Apr;71(4):854–6.
- Lissoni P, Tancini G, Paolorossi F, Mandalà M, Ardizzoia A, Malugani F, et al. Chemoneuroendocrine therapy of metastatic breast cancer with persistent thrombocytopenia with weekly low-dose epirubicin plus melatonin: a phase II study. J Pineal Res. 1999 Apr;26(3):169–73.
- Lissoni P, Barni S, Mandalà M, Ardizzoia A, Paolorossi F, Vaghi M, et al. Decreased toxicity and increased efficacy of cancer chemotherapy using the pineal hormone melatonin in metastatic solid tumour patients with poor clinical status. Eur J Cancer Oxf Engl 1990. 1999 Nov;35(12):1688–92.
- Di Bella G, Mascia F, Ricchi A, Colori B. Evaluation of the safety and efficacy of the first-line treatment with somatostatin combined with melatonin, retinoids, vitamin D3, and low doses of cyclophosphamide in 20 cases of breast cancer: a preliminary report. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013;34(7):660–8.
- Nahleh Z, Pruemer J, Lafollette J, Sweany S. Melatonin, a promising role in taxane-related neuropathy. Clin Med Insights Oncol. 2010 Apr 28;4:35–41.
- Ben-David MA, Elkayam R, Gelernter I, Pfeffer RM. Melatonin for Prevention of Breast Radiation Dermatitis: A Phase II, Prospective, Double-Blind Randomized Trial. Isr Med Assoc J IMAJ. 2016 Apr;18(3–4):188–92.