Melatonin Reduces Radiation Burning
The two primary side effects of radiation therapy for breast cancer are fatigue and skin burning. The intensity of each is highly variable, but some woman have a very tough time. In my experience, large breasted women and women who have had a mastectomy and are receiving radiation therapy directly to the chest wall are the most likely to experience severe burns. I have no idea if this observation would hold up to study or others' experiences, but it certainly is what I have seen and heard over the past thirty years. For those women who are badly burned, knowing that the skin will eventually heal is little solace during the weeks of trouble.
Finally, here is some hopeful news of something that may help. In a small study from Israel, the incidence of serious burns was reduced by 50% by the use of a melatonin compound. Here is a quote and then a link to read more. If you are scheduled for radiation therapy or are in the midst of it, do ask your doctor about this report.
A prospective, double-blind, randomized study of a melatonin-containing cream for radiation-induced breast dermatitis
M. A. Ben-David, R. Elkayam, I. Galarenter, R. M. Pfeffer; Sheba Medical Center, Ramat-Gan, Israel; Biostatistics Department, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel; Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Ramat-Gan, Israel
A melatonin emulsion significantly reduced skin toxicity from radiation therapy for breast cancer, according to results of a small randomized trial reported here.
The incidence of grade 1 to 2 skin toxicity declined by almost 50% in women who used the melatonin compound versus those who used a placebo emulsion. Conversely, four times as many patients had grade 0 toxicity with melatonin versus placebo, as reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's 2010 Breast Cancer Symposium.
Women older than 50 and smokers derived particular benefit from the melatonin emulsion, said Merav A. Ben-David, MD, of Sheba Medical Center in Ramat-Gan, Israel.