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MIAMI (CBSMiami) –A new study suggests melatonin may be key in fighting breast cancer.

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Researchers at Michigan State University say the hormone – produced in the human brain – appears to suppress the growth of breast cancer tumors.

As part of the study, the group grew cancerous tumors from stem cells in a laboratory then treated it with melatonin. What they found was that the hormone decreased the number and size of breast cancer tumors.

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Health experts have speculated that the lack of melatonin due in part to our sleep-deprived culture put women at higher risk of developing breast cancer.  The hormone is only produced at night to regulate sleep cycles.

Treatments based on the discovery are still years away but the study has given scientists a foundation on which to build more research on the matter.

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The study is published in the current issue of Genes and Cancer.