Anticarcinogenic actions of melatonin which involve antioxidative processes: comparison with other antioxidants

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2001 Aug;33(8):735-53. doi: 10.1016/s1357-2725(01)00059-0.


The complex processes of carcinogenesis often involve oxidative stress. Numerous indicators of oxidative damage are enhanced as the result of the action of carcinogens. Several antioxidants, with different efficacies, protect against oxidative abuse caused by carcinogens. Recently, melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) and related indoleamines have attracted attention because of their high antioxidant and anticarcinogenic activity. Some antioxidants, e.g. ascorbic acid, play an ambivalent role in antioxidative defense, since, under specific conditions, they are strongly prooxidant. Among known antioxidants, melatonin has been an often investigated experimental agent in reducing cancer initiation and inhibiting the growth of established tumors. The indoleamine has been shown to protect macromolecules from oxidative mutilation induced by carcinogens. In these studies, a variety of in vitro and in vivo models were used and numerous indices of oxidative damage were evaluated. The protective effects of melatonin and several other indoleamine antioxidants against cellular damage caused by carcinogens make them potential supplements in the treatment or co-treatment at several stages of cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aminolevulinic Acid / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / chemistry
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Carcinogens / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / chemistry
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Metals / metabolism
  • Molecular Structure
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phenylhydrazines / pharmacology


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Carcinogens
  • Metals
  • Phenylhydrazines
  • phenylhydrazine
  • Aminolevulinic Acid
  • Melatonin