Can sleep prevent prostate cancer?

The suggestion that more sleep is beneficial to one’s health is not a new one. However following through and actually getting eight hours a night is much easier said than done. Well gentlemen, this article may sway you.

A new study from Harvard University has found that higher levels of melatonin, a hormone produced exclusively at night, may decrease the risk for developing advanced prostate cancer.

So how does it work? Numerous biological processes, including our sleeping cycles, are regulated by the circadian rhythm. Melatonin is a critical output of this circadian rhythm, and may play a part in regulating a range of other hormones influencing certain cancers, including prostate and breast cancer.

The study was conducted on 928 Icelandic men between 2002 and 2009 with the aim of investigating the levels of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin, the main breakdown product of melatonin, in urine.

“We found that men who had higher levels of melatonin had a 75 per cent reduced risk for developing advanced prostate cancer compared with men who had lower levels of melatonin,” said Saran Markt, doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health.

At the conclusion of the study, 111 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, with 24 of these having progressed to an advanced stage of the disease. With 17.14 nanograms per millimetre of urine the median value of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin, men who had sleep problems or took sleeping medication had significantly lower levels than the men without sleeping problems.

While the statistical link is strong, Markt is the first to admit that the results require replication, stating “Further prospective studies to investigate the interplay between sleep duration, sleep disturbance, and melatonin levels on risk for prostate cancer are needed”.

Regardless of the results of further research, there’s little harm in getting a few hours extra sleep per night, and potentially a lot of benefit!

To find out more, read the AACR Press Release, Melatonin May Lower Prostate Cancer Risk.

Written by SJ