Sleeping man
Getting a goodnight’s sleep may help protect against the risk of developing prostate cancer, a new study says.mendolus shank/Flickr

Getting a goodnight's sleep may help lessen the risk of developing prostate cancer, a new study says.

An improvement in the production of melatonin through sleep was associated with a 75 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer in men, compared to a lower production of the hormone due to poor sleep. Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, plays a huge role in the sleep-wake cycle. The hormone that is produced at night, mainly in the darkness, has always been known to protect the body against certain cancers.

Previous research on breast cancer has shown that women who work at night shifts had an increased risk of developing cancer than others. The main reason behind this was the continuous exposure to light that further brought down the production of melatonin in their body.

"Sleep loss and other factors can influence the amount of melatonin secretion or block it altogether, and health problems associated with low melatonin, disrupted sleep, and/or disruption of the circadian rhythm are broad, including a potential risk factor for cancer," Sarah C. Markt, doctoral candidate in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said in a news release. "We found that men who had higher levels of melatonin had a 75 percent reduced risk for developing advanced prostate cancer compared with men who had lower levels of melatonin."

For the study, Markt and colleagues selected 928 Icelandic men, enrolled in the AGES-Reykjavik cohort. Participants filled questionnaires related to their sleep patterns, including difficulties in falling asleep or meeting the recommended level of sleep. Apart from that, use of sleeping pills among the participants was also recorded.

Researchers collected urine samples from the men and tested. People who reported sleep-related problems had a lower concentration of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin (a principal metabolite of melatonin) in their urine. At the end of the study, 111 men were detected with prostate cancer. Results showed that prostate cancer was more common among men who had lower levels of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in their urine.

Findings of the study were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research-Prostate Cancer Foundation Conference on Advances in Prostate Cancer Research, held in San Diego, US.