The circadian rhythms of melatonin and 6-sulfatoxymelatonin (aMT6s) were analyzed in serum and urine of young men (YM, n = 8), of elderly patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, n = 7) and of patients of similar age with primary prostate cancer (PC, n = 9). The data expressed as concentration and in urine also as hourly excreted quantity were analyzed chronobiologically by the single cosinor method and, subsequently submitted to linear regression analyses. Circadian rhythms were detected in all cases except for the excreted quantity of melatonin. The circadian patterns of melatonin and aMT6s in serum were very similar in the different groups and regression analyses showed close correlations between both variables. MESOR and amplitude were significantly depressed in PC (40-60%) as compared to BPH and YM indicating that the depression of serum melatonin in PC is due to a reduced pineal activity and is not caused by an enhanced metabolic degradation in the liver. Acrophases of serum melatonin occurred between 01:34 and 03:26 h and of serum aMT6s between 03:58 and 04:35 h. Circadian rhythms similar to those of serum melatonin and aMT6s were found in urine, particularly for aMT6s excretion as well as melatonin concentration; the determination of both parameters in overnight urine samples closely correlated with the nocturnal peak of circulating melatonin. These results imply that it is feasible to estimate changes in pineal function of prostate cancer patients by means of non-invasive determination using urinary melatonin and aMT6s.