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Melatonin and breast cancer: cellular mechanisms, clinical studies and future perspectives

  • Stephen G. Grant (a1) (a2), Melissa A. Melan (a3), Jean J. Latimer (a1) (a2) and Paula A. Witt-Enderby (a1) (a2) (a4)


Recent studies have suggested that the pineal hormone melatonin may protect against breast cancer, and the mechanisms underlying its actions are becoming clearer. Melatonin works through receptors and distinct second messenger pathways to reduce cellular proliferation and to induce cellular differentiation. In addition, independently of receptors melatonin can modulate oestrogen-dependent pathways and reduce free-radical formation, thus preventing mutation and cellular toxicity. The fact that melatonin works through a myriad of signalling cascades that are protective to cells makes this hormone a good candidate for use in the clinic for the prevention and/or treatment of cancer. This review summarises cellular mechanisms governing the action of melatonin and then considers the potential use of melatonin in breast cancer prevention and treatment, with an emphasis on improving clinical outcomes.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Paula A. Witt-Enderby, Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Duquesne University, 421 Mellon Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA. Tel: +1 412 396 4346; Fax: +1 412 396 5599; E-mail:


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Bartsch, C. and Bartsch, H. (2006) The anti-tumor activity of pineal melatonin and cancer enhancing life styles in industrialized societies. Cancer Causes and Control 17, 559-571
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Vijayalaxmi, et al. (2002) Melatonin: from basic research to cancer treatment clinics. Journal of Clinical Oncology 20, 2575-2601
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