Study suggests link between melatonin, advanced prostate cancer

January 24, 2014

Higher levels of melatonin, a hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle, may suggest decreased risk for developing advanced prostate cancer, according to a recent study.

Higher levels of melatonin, a hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle, may suggest decreased risk for developing advanced prostate cancer, according to a recent study.

“We found that men who had higher levels of melatonin had a 75% reduced risk for developing advanced prostate cancer compared with men who had lower levels of melatonin,” said study author Sarah C. Markt, MPH, of Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.

“Our results require replication, but support the public health implication of the importance of maintaining a stable light-dark and sleep-wake cycle. Because melatonin levels are potentially modifiable, further studies of melatonin and prostate cancer risk and progression are warranted,” Markt said.

To investigate the association between urine levels of the main breakdown product of melatonin, 6-sulfatoxymelatonin, and risk of prostate cancer, Markt and colleagues conducted a case-cohort study of 928 Icelandic men from the AGES-Reykjavik cohort between 2002 and 2009. They collected first morning void urine samples at recruitment, and asked the participants to answer a questionnaire about sleep patterns.

The authors found that one in seven men reported problems falling asleep, one in five men reported problems staying asleep, and almost one in three reported taking sleeping medications.

The median value of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in the study participants was 17.14 ng/mL of urine. Men who reported taking medications for sleep, problems falling asleep, and problems staying asleep had significantly lower 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels compared with men without sleep problems, according to Markt.

Of the study participants, 111 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, including 24 with advanced disease. The authors found that men whose 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels were higher than the median value had a 75% decreased risk for advanced prostate cancer. A 31% decreased risk for prostate cancer overall was observed as well, but this finding was not statistically significant.

“Further prospective studies to investigate the interplay between sleep duration, sleep disturbance, and melatonin levels on risk for prostate cancer are needed,” said Markt.

Results from the study were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research-Prostate Cancer Foundation Conference on Advances in Prostate Cancer Research in San Diego.

The study was funded by the Harvard Catalyst.

To get weekly news from the leading news source for urologists, subscribe to the Urology Times eNews.