Abstract: Melatonin, the main secretory product of the pineal gland, is an oncostatic agent that reduces the growth and development of various types of tumors, particularly mammary tumors whose growth is dependent on estrogens. Previous in vivo and in vitro studies point to the hypothesis that melatonin interplays with estrogen signaling pathways at three different levels: i) an indirect mechanism, by interfering with the hypothalamic-pituitary-reproductive axis in such way that the level of plasma estrogens synthesized by the gonadal glands are downregulated; ii) a direct mechanism of the pineal gland at the cell cancer level, disrupting the activation of estradiol receptors, therefore behaving as a selective estrogen receptor modulator; and iii) by regulating the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of estrogens in other tissues, thus behaving as a selective estrogen enzyme modulator. The intratumoral metabolism and synthesis of estrogens, as a result of the interactions of various enzymes, is more important than blood uptake to maintain mammary gland estrogen levels in menopausal females. Additionally, estrogens are considered to play an important role in the pathogenesis and development of hormone-dependent breast carcinoma. Paracrine interactions among malignant epithelial cells and proximal adipose and endothelial cells, through cytokines and growth factors produced by breast tumor cells, modulate estrogen production at the mammary tumor level and, as a consequence, the genesis and development of mammary tumors. The aim of the present review is to summarize the recent findings describing the mechanisms by which melatonin is able to modulate the crosstalk among malignant epithelial, endothelial and adipose cells in breast cancer.
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