Melatonin and breast cancer: cellular mechanisms, clinical studies and future perspectives

Expert Rev Mol Med. 2009 Feb 5;11:e5. doi: 10.1017/S1462399409000982.


Recent studies have suggested that the pineal hormone melatonin may protect against breast cancer, and the mechanisms underlying its actions are becoming clearer. Melatonin works through receptors and distinct second messenger pathways to reduce cellular proliferation and to induce cellular differentiation. In addition, independently of receptors melatonin can modulate oestrogen-dependent pathways and reduce free-radical formation, thus preventing mutation and cellular toxicity. The fact that melatonin works through a myriad of signalling cascades that are protective to cells makes this hormone a good candidate for use in the clinic for the prevention and/or treatment of cancer. This review summarises cellular mechanisms governing the action of melatonin and then considers the potential use of melatonin in breast cancer prevention and treatment, with an emphasis on improving clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use*
  • Models, Animal
  • Models, Biological
  • Prognosis
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Melatonin