Sleep better and lower prostate cancer risk?
Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. According to a new study, an association exists between higher levels of the sleep hormone melatonin and a lower risk of prostate cancer.
Melatonin, produced by the pineal gland in the brain, is directly affected by the amount and quality of sleep.
“There has been a longstanding association between melatonin and cancer risk in general, whether breast cancer or prostate cancer,” says Dr. Timothy Roth, urologist on staff at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill.
Researchers analyzed the urine samples of nearly 930 Icelandic men to measure their melatonin levels. In addition, the men were given a questionnaire about their sleep patterns. The study found that men with higher levels of melatonin had a 30 percent lower risk of overall prostate cancer.
This association was particularly strong when it came to an advanced stage of the disease. In fact, men with higher melatonin levels had a 75 percent lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. Of the men who already had prostate cancer, 111 in total, those with higher melatonin levels had a less advanced stage of the disease.
“A reasonable conclusion from this study and similar studies is that a link exists between melatonin and prostate cancer risk,” Dr. Roth says. “However, until more research comes along, we can’t confirm that higher levels of melatonin will result in less chance of prostate cancer. This study will hopefully be a springboard for more in-depth research on a cause-and-effect relationship.”
While Dr. Roth doesn’t recommend stocking up on melatonin supplements, he does acknowledge the health benefits of a good night’s sleep. Seven to eight hours of sleep is an ideal amount for a healthy adult, he notes.
“Studies have shown that people who obtain a healthy amount of sleep tend to have less risk of severe diseases, including cancers and cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases,” Dr. Roth says. “Generally, individuals who get an adequate amount of sleep tend to eat better, exercise more and ultimately lead a healthier lifestyle.”
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