Oncological therapies have consequences on the health of the mouth and teeth, in particular cancer patients are often affected by oral mucositis; a recent study demonstrated the efficacy of melatonin for the prevention of this pathology following anticancer therapies.
The multidisciplinary approach for cancer patients
Therapies for the treatment of tumors involve different phases: surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy. The latter are therapies that work by slowing the growth of cancer cells, but also affect healthy cells, causing a series of consequences on the health of the organism.
For this reason, the approach towards cancer patients is increasingly multidisciplinary; the side effects of anticancer treatments affect many branches, including dentistry.
Prevention of oral mucositis through the intake of melatonin
Oral mucositis is a very painful pathology and affects between 40 and 80% of patients undergoing chemotherapy and reaches almost 100% of cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy for head or neck tumors.
To date, there is no quick and effective cure for oral mucositis, but it is possible to act with preventive care.
One of the preventive therapies being examined by the scientific community is the administration of melatonin thanks to its cytoprotective and anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for many oral diseases.
The research on the administration of melatonin for the prevention of oral mucositis, in cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy, was published in April 2020 in the scientific journal Oral Disease.
The research was conducted on a sample of forty patients with head and neck cancer undergoing radiotherapy at the Department of Clinical Oncology, University of Alexandria, Egypt.
The patients were divided equally into two groups:
- control group, which received conventional treatment;
- test group, which received 20 mg of melatonin along with conventional treatment;
The clinical evaluation was carried out on the basis of the severity and pain caused by oral mucositis at three and six weeks after the start of radiotherapy. A saliva sample was also taken for each patient to assess their total antioxidant capacity at the start of radiotherapy and six weeks later.
Results of research on the use of melatonin for the prevention of oral mucositis
- 92.5% of patients experienced oral mucositis with greater severity in the control group than in the test group.
- The mean pain index was significantly reduced in the test group compared to the control group.
- The values of the total antioxidant capacity of saliva showed a significant difference between the test group and the control group with a significant decrease in the control group.
From the results of the research it can be deduced that the administration of melatonin concomitantly with an oncological therapy can prevent the onset of oral mucositis and avoid the patient further discomfort and pain. This study is awaiting confirmation from similar research, but it is already a valid support for the collaboration between oncologists and dentists for a global approach to the patient.