Melatonin supplements simulate the effects of your own naturally produced melatonin in promoting sleep, and research shows melatonin can have a substantial role in cancer outcomes and side effects.

How do experts use melatonin?

Both medical groups and integrative experts provide recommendations for this therapy in treating people with cancer. Learn more about the approaches and meanings of recommendations.

Published protocols, programs, and approaches

Melatonin is used in programs, approaches, and protocolsa package of therapies combining and preferably integrating various therapies and practices into a cohesive design for care from these integrative oncologists, drawing from both scientific research and observations from years or even decades of treating people with cancer.

Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella

Approaches are described for certain cancer types, or along with certain conventional therapy treatments, or for particular conditions such as insulin resistance.

Uses of melatonin:

  • Brain cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Healthy digestion
  • Hormone balance

Keith Block, MD

Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.

The integrative Block Program has recommendations to people who are at different places along the cancer continuum:

  • Those who’ve been recently diagnosed
  • Those in treatment
  • Those who’ve concluded treatment and need to remain vigilant to prevent recurrence

Uses of melatonin:

  • Breast cancer (case study)
  • Improving sleep
  • Immune surveillance terrain modifier
  • Logical coupler with chemotherapy

Raymond Chang, MD, FACP

Chang R. Beyond the Magic Bullet: The Anti-Cancer Cocktail. New York: Square One Publishers. 2012.

This book describes a “new therapy based on the knowledge that certain off-label drugs, nutrients, and therapies are each somewhat effective against cancer.” Dr. Chang combines approaches for added benefit.

Describe the recommendation(s) or delete this sentence if none.

Gerald Lemole, MD; Pallav Mehta, MD; and Dwight McKee, MD

Lemole GM, Mehta PK, McKee DL. After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients with Cancer. New York, New York: Rodale, Inc. 2015.

These doctors present easy-to-incorporate lifestyle changes to help you “turn on” hundreds of genes that fight cancer, and “turn off” the ones that encourage cancer, while recommending lifestyle approaches to address each type.

Uses of melatonin:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer

Neil McKinney, BSc, ND

McKinney N. Naturopathic Oncology, Fourth Edition. Victoria, BC, Canada: Liaison Press. 2020.

This book includes descriptions and uses of many natural and complementary protocols for cancer in general and for specific cancers. It also includes information on integrative support during conventional cancer treatment.

Uses of melatonin:

  • General cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Carcinoid/neuroendocrine cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia and Myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Liver/gallbladder cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Stomach cancer

Gurdev Parmar, ND, FABNO, and Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

Parmar G, Kaczor T. Textbook of Naturopathic Oncology: A Desktop Guide of Integrative Cancer Care. 1st edition. Medicatrix Holdings Ltd. 2020.

This book provides information on the treatment of 24 cancers, plus the most effective treatments of the most common symptoms affecting cancer patients while they undergo chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery.

Uses of melatonin:

  • Breast cancer
  • Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver/hepatocellular cancers
  • Melanoma
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Primary brain tumor

Other recommendations

Abrams DI, Weil A, editors. Integrative Oncology, Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. 2014.

This book by integrative medicine experts and CancerChoices advisors Donald Abrams, MD, and Andrew Weil, MD, desribes a wide variety of complementary interventions to conventional cancer care, including a chapter from the perspective of a cancer patient.

Melatonin is listed as having benefit in lung cancer and as a sleep aid and an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.

Dosing

Dosage has not been standardized for use in cancer care, but recommendations are available from these sources.

Solutions 4 Health

Recommendations based on the book After Cancer Care1Lemole G, Mehta P, McKee D. After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients with Cancer. New York, New York: Rodale, Inc. 2015.

General information about dosing

Find general dosing guidelines regarding natural products and supplements.

Expert commentary

CancerChoices Senior Clinical Consultant Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS: Is melatonin before surgery a good idea or not? We have presented guidance from integrative oncology experts advising to stop taking melatonin supplements before surgery, as it may increase the sedating effects of anesthesia and prolong the time it takes you to wake up after surgery. Yet we have also presented evidence suggesting that a dose of melatonin given just before surgery may decrease the dose of anesthesia required, and it may decrease anxiety both before and after surgery and improve pain management after surgery. 

We turned to CancerChoices advisor and retired anesthesiologist Gwen Stritter, MD, for her take from a practical clinical perspective. Her response: 

I’m not impressed by the quality of the research in the Naguib study that concludes that melatonin may be a good pre-medication to reduce anesthesia requirements. And, because it is tricky adding anything to anesthesia that increases analgesia or sedation (it could interfere with people waking up quickly from anesthesia, amongst other potential problems), I personally would not prescribe it.

I’d feel much more comfortable using oral or IV NSAIDs or intra-op local anesthesia to reduce post-operative analgesic requirements. I would also feel more comfortable using an ultra-short-acting sedative should the patient need one pre-op rather than add a long-acting substance like melatonin that would delay emergence from anesthesia.

Our assessment is that you should not take melatonin for 5 to 7 days before surgery unless your physician specifically recommends use. You need to alert your medical team (oncologist, surgeon, primary care provider) to your use of melatonin or any other supplements as you prepare for surgery.

Keep reading about melatonin

Author

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Reviewers

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Dugald Seely, ND, MSc

Physician, researcher, and CancerChoices advisor
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Dugald Seely, ND, MSc is a naturopathic doctor and clinician scientist living in Ottawa, Canada. Dr. Seely serves patients living with cancer in clinic and is active in research building on the base of evidence for integrative and naturopathic oncology. Helping to pioneer the delivery and development of integrative oncology, Dr. Seely is the founder and executive director of The Centre for Health Innovation (CHI); an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Medicine; executive director for research and clinical epidemiology at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine; and president of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP). Dr. Seely has led numerous clinical trials and synthesis research over the past 18 years and has published and presented internationally. Dugald is the father of two and most happy when spending time with his family in the wild outdoors.

Dugald Seely, ND, MSc Physician, researcher, and CancerChoices advisor

Last update: July 13, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

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