A number of studies performed in vitro and on experimental animals supported the view that pineal gland inhibits neoplastic growth. Data in humans are scanty and controversial. In the present study we measured serum melatonin (MT), prolactin (PRL) and growth hormone (GH) concentrations, at 08.00 and 24.00, in 132 cancer patients and in 58 healthy control subjects. The patients were stratified according to histology and stage of disease as follows: 30 stage I-II and 45 stage III-IV breast cancer (BC); 39 stage III-IV lung cancer; 18 advanced gastrointestinal (GI) cancer. We also measured MT levels, at the same time-points, in 20 women with primary BC before and after radical mastectomy. Finally, we evaluated the circadian rhythm of serum MT in 18 patients with advanced cancer. On the whole, the patients with advanced tumors showed serum MT levels significantly higher than controls, without any correlation with PRL and GH values. When looking at stage III-IV vs stage I-II BC patients, significantly higher MT levels have been found in the former group. The surgical removal of the primary BC was not associated with any changes in MT values at both time points considered. A highly significant rhythm of serum MT was recorded in advanced cancer patients and the rhythmic parameters were substantially superimposable on those of the control subjects.
Melatonin and human cancer