Melatonin cream protects from radiation burns in breast cancer patients

Redness, tenderness, and swelling of the skin are common during radiotherapy for breast cancer.

Melatonin-based creams protect from these effects in rats. So, researchers at Tel Aviv University, in Israel, tested it in women with breast cancer.

First, the details.

  • After lumpectomy, 47 were randomly assigned to a treatment group during radiotherapy.
    • Melatonin cream applied twice daily
    • Placebo
  • All women received 50Gy whole breast radiotherapy with 2Gy/fx.
  • There was no difference between the groups regarding histology, stage, treatment, skin color, BMI, and the details of their surgery.
  • Patients were examined, photographed.
  • They completed a detailed questionnaire weekly and 2 weeks following radiotherapy.
  • The ROTG (Radiation Therapy Oncology Group) criteria were used to measure severity of skin reactions.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • Grade 1 or 2 acute dermatitis occurred significantly less in the melatonin group immediately following radiotherapy (59% vs 90%) — almost a 50% reduction.
    • For comparison, up to 90% of breast cancer patients have acute skin reactions during radiation therapy — grade 2 severity in about a third of cases.
  • 4 times as many patients had grade 0 toxicity with melatonin vs placebo.
  • The difference was greatest among women older then 50, with 56% having grade 1 and or 2 in the melatonin group vs 100% in the placebo a — a significant difference.
  • Smokers in the melatonin group did significantly better than non-smokers.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded that these are; “promising results for the melatonin containing cream in preventing radiation induced skin reactions.”

It’s a small study, and more research is planned.

10/10/10 09:46 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.