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Ever since my husband started having health problems that lead us to discover his lung cancer, he's had problems sleeping. It's been a month since his lobectomy, he is now off all pain meds but is unable to sleep without taking ambien. I imagine that this is common. I'm wondering how long people continue to take sleep aids. Thoughts on becoming addicted to them vs the desparate need for sleep? I'll also post this in the alternative/complimentry forum for suggestions on herbs ect that may help. Thanks

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You may want to look into Melatonin.




Melatonin--is an immune modulator that increases the survival time of most cancer patients

Some cancer patients are now taking melatonin, an immune-modulating neurohormone, as part of a comprehensive, nontoxic cancer treatment. The cone-shaped pineal body, a small but crucial gland located in the brain, produces melatonin, a hormone that influences sexual maturation but also appears to play an important role in cancer.

Melatonin supplementation appears to restore circadian rhythms, which diminish or disappear with age. When melatonin's circadian rhythm is abolished, the aging process is accelerated, life span is shortened, and an increase in spontaneous tumors occurs (Maestroni et al. 1999). Investigators showed that when the defense system is compromised (due to disrupted rhythms), tumors grow two to three times faster (Filipski et al. 2002).

Melatonin also protects and restores normal blood-cell production caused by the toxicity of conventional treatments, a profile shared with FDA-approved drugs Neupogen, a granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), and Leukine, a granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). A combination of melatonin and low-dose interleukin 2 (IL-2) neutralizes treatment-induced lymphocytopenia, a decrease in the numbers of lymphocytes in the peripheral circulation of cancer patients (Lissoni et al. 1993).

Researchers found the best way to amplify the antitumoral activity of low dose IL-2 is by not coadministering another cytokine but rather cosupplementing with the immune-modulating neurohormone melatonin (Lissoni et al., 1994a). This is hopeful news for a subset of cancer patients, because melatonin has been shown to cause tumor regression in neoplasms nonresponsive to IL-2 (Maestroni, 1999).

The Division of Radiation Oncology of the San Gerardo Hospital (Milan) developed the following protocol for 80 patients with advanced metastatic tumors (Lissoni et al. 1994a). The patients were randomized to receive 3 million IU of IL-2, 6 days a week, for 4 weeks or IL-2 plus 40 mg a day of melatonin. A complete response was achieved in 3 of 41 patients treated with IL-2 plus melatonin and in none of the patients receiving only IL-2. A partial response occurred in 8 of 41 patients treated with IL-2 plus melatonin and in 1 of 39 patients treated with IL-2. Tumor regression rate was significantly higher in patients using IL-2 and melatonin compared to those receiving IL-2 (11/41 versus 1/39). The survival rate at 1 year was higher in patients treated with IL-2 and melatonin than in the IL-2 group (19/41 versus 6/39). Lymphocytic populations were consistently higher when melatonin accompanied the treatment and thrombocytopenia (a decrease in the number of circulating platelets) occurred less frequently.

For patients with bloodborne cancers, an IL-2/melatonin combination is also promising. Twelve patients (nonresponsive to previous standard therapies) evaluated the efficacy and tolerability of a combination of low-dose IL-2 plus melatonin in advanced malignancies of the blood, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, acute myelogenous leukemia, multiple myeloma, and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. IL-2 was given 6 days a week for 4 weeks, along with oral melatonin (20 mg a day). Cancer was stabilized and did not progress in 8 of 12 (67%) participants for an average duration of 21 months. An additional benefit accrued as the melatonin/IL-2 therapy was well tolerated (Lissoni et al. 2000).

Nonresectable brain metastasis remains an untreatable disease. Because of melatonin's cytostatic action (the ability to suppress the growth and multiplication of cells) and its anticonvulsant activity, the pineal hormone may prove effective in the treatment of brain metastasis. In a study to test the theory, 50 patients with inoperable brain metastasis were given supportive care or supportive care and 20 mg of melatonin nightly. Freedom from brain tumor progression and survival rates at 1 year were higher in patients who were treated with melatonin compared to those who received only supportive care (Lissoni et al. 1994b, 1996). Even when melatonin was unable to stop the progression of advanced, metastatic disease, it improved the performance status of patients (see Table 2).

Low melatonin levels play a role in escalating rates of breast cancer. As melatonin levels decrease, the secretion of estrogen increases. Nighttime production of melatonin inhibits the body's secretion of estrogen and decreases the proliferation of human breast cancer cells. Conversely, light during nighttime sleep decreases melatonin production and increases cumulative lifetime estrogen levels, a sequence that may increase the risk of breast cancer.

In fact, two current studies show that women who work night shifts may increase their risk of breast cancer up to 60%. Blind women have a significantly lower risk (36% less) of breast cancer than normally sighted women because of consistently higher levels of melatonin in their dark world (Kliukiene et al. 2001). Women, who are classed as only visually impaired, realize no protective effects in regard to breast cancer.

Summary of Studies Using Melatonin Lissoni's Phase II Randomized Clinical Trial Results

1-Year Survival

(The copy to this board messed up the order in the text for the trial results, go to the link above to see it in order)

Tumor Type

Patient Number

Basic Therapy

Melatonin Dose



Level of


Metastatic nonsmall

cell lung

63 Supportive care only

10 mg 26%

under 1% <0.05


30 Conventional radiotherapy

10 mg 43% under 1% <0.05

Metastatic breast

40 Tamoxifen

20 mg 63% 24% <0.01

Brain metastases 50 Conventional radiotherapy

20 mg 38% 12% <0.05

Metastatic colorectal

50 IL-2

40 mg 36% 12% <0.05

Metastatic nonsmall

cell lung

60 IL-2

40 mg 45% 19% <0.05

Compiled by Cancer Treatment Centers of America and published in the March 2002 issue of Life Extension Magazine.

It appears that melatonin may also reduce the number of estrogen receptors on breast cancer cells. Since estrogen effectively feeds the growth of hormone-responsive breast tumors, reducing the receptors might slow tumor growth. Science News reported that the amount of melatonin required to inhibit breast cell proliferation appears no greater than the amount commonly present in human blood at night (Science News 93; Moss 1995).

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are another inhibitor of melatonin production. These results provide the first evidence that ELF (extremely low frequency) magnetic fields can act at the cellular levels to enhance breast cancer cell proliferation by blocking melatonin's natural oncostatic action. The mechanism(s) of action is unknown and may involve modulation of signal transduction events associated with melatonin's regulation of cell growth (Liburdy et al. 1993). Researchers at the Wayne Hughes Institute (Minnesota) added that test-tube studies indicate that EMFs can cause a chain of enzyme reactions which cells use to relay operational directions to DNA. The EMF-activated enzymes (tyrosine kinases) encourage cell proliferation, fueling the cancer process (Science News 1998).

Subscribing to the EMF/cancer link raises concern about close and prolonged contact with electrical appliances and equipment, such as electric stoves, hair dryers, televisions, electric typewriters, razors, power tools, various brands of computer monitors, power lines (e.g., high voltage lines carrying power from power plants to substations or between substations), and radio towers. Note: A gauss meter may be helpful in assessing the levels of EMFs emanating from regularly used appliances and tools in a home environment. A gauss meter may be purchased from Electric Field Measurements, West Stockbridge, MA 01266, Telephone: (413) 637-1929.

Melatonin delivers another anticancer perk through its antioxidant values. Physicians who once credited glutathione and vitamin E as being antioxidants of choice have now given special honor to melatonin. The neurohormone appears to protect against tumors by shielding molecules (especially DNA) from oxidative stress. Melatonin exerts its antioxidant properties by detoxifying the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, as well as singlet oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and peroxynitrite anions (Kim et al. 2000).

A typical dose for a healthy individual is 300 mcg-6 mg each night. Cancer patients often take between 3-50 mg each night. Researchers at Cancer Treatment Centers of America are focusing on examining circadian activity and rest rhythms in cancer patients. It is hoped that by establishing optimal dosage and the hours to best administer, melatonin's full potential will be realized by more patients. Some currently subscribe to nocturnal dosing, while others prescribe melatonin every 4 hours (a nonchronobiological dosing pattern).

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www.sleepfoundation.org. This site has lots of helpful info including two recommended herbs, the one listed above Melatonin and Valerian which has been used for decades without harmful effects in Germany. Drugs should only be considered if nothing else works. I was recommended medication by my doctor for hypertension and refused. It's now under control with lifestyle changes and supplements. I was also recommended medication for high cholesterol and refused. This is now under control with supplements. In summary, use medication when everything else fails. In the world of conventional medicine it's all about drugs, drugs and more drugs. The all natural approach is best. There are herbs that are dangerous but not all. Do a search on the internet and educate yourself. The easy way out is always drugs. And let's not forget that the leading cause of deaths in the USA is Doctors/Drugs/Hospitals. And this is from a doctor (Dr. Mercola).
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I just thought I'd let you all know that the Melatonin worked. Oh boy, did it work! He snored so loud all night, I swear it shook the bed! I think I'll buy a lower dose next time, or have him take half a pill. Hopefully soon, he'll be able to sleep better on his own but for now, I do feel better about this than the ambien.

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I'm happy the melatonin worked. You may not want to cut his dose, because if you read up on the latest melatonin research, it also has anti-cancer properties. Take care.

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