Cancer News: 10 Reasons Why 75% of Cancer Survivors Take Supplements
Good nutrition, including supplements, can help to prevent cancer from developing in the first place. But what if you already have cancer? Can supplements help during treatment and in preventing a recurrence? A survey published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship found that most cancer survivors take supplements including multivitamins (60%), calcium and vitamin D (37%) and antioxidants (30%), among others. Overall, 75% of cancer survivors take nutritional supplements.
Here are some research findings that every cancer survivor should know about. (We’ve included references so you and your doctor can easily locate the original research if you need to.) Be sure to include your doctor in any decision to add nutritional supplements to your treatment or ongoing care. This is not something you want to keep a secret! You and your oncologist need to work as a team.
A systematic review of 19 studies suggests that antioxidants may improve chemotherapy results. Cancer patients who take antioxidant supplements during chemo may have increased survival rates, tumor response and improved ability to tolerate chemotherapy. All of the studies were randomized trials with a control group, and included reporting of treatment response (tumor shrinkage) and survival data. All that included survival statistics showed similar or better survival rates for the antioxidant group than for the control group. Most of the people included in the studies had advanced or relapsed cancer. (Block, KI, et al. Cancer Treatment Rev. 2007 doi:10.1016/ctrv.2007.01.005)
Research shows that CoQ10 can boost skin cancer treatment. People being treated for Stage II melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer, who took 400 mg a day of CoQ10 during drug treatment with interferon alpha-2B were 13 times less likely to develop a recurrence than people taking only the drug. Researchers think CoQ10 helped people to have a better immune response to the treatment. (Rusciani, L., et al. Melanoma Res. 2007 17:177-183.)
3. Calcium and Vitamin D
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D may prevent the spread of breast cancer to bones because it slows bone turnover. (Zheng, Y., et al. Cancer Research. 2007 Oct 1;67(19):9542-8.) Vitamin D is a well-known regulator of cell growth and differentiation. Deficiency may be involved in breast, prostate and colon cancer, and possibly malignant melanoma. (Osbourne, JE, Hutchinson, PE, Br J Dermatol. 2002 Aug;147(2):197-213.) Many cancer patients are low in vitamin D, and RDA doses (400 IU) aren’t enough to reach optimal levels. It’s best to get your blood levels tested and take an amount of vitamin D to keep you in an optimum mid-range level of 30-60 ng/ml.
Taking supplemental magnesium during chemotherapy may help protect your kidneys. Women being treated with cisplatin for ovarian cancer who also got 5,000 mg of magnesium before each treatment and 500 mg three times a day of magnesium between treatments had significantly less kidney damage compared to women who didn’t get extra magnesium. (Bodnar, L. et al. Euro J Cancer. 2008; 44(7):2608-14.)
5. Fish Oil
High levels of EPA and DHA, found in fish oil, can be beneficial for prolonging cancer remission. Fish oil supplementation decreases production of inflammatory prostaglandins thought to play a role in promoting the growth of cancer cells. (Aronson WJ, et al. Urology. 2001;58:283-8.) There is also some evidence that fish oil might help kill some cancer cells. (Sagar PS, et al. Cancer Lett 1992;63:189-98.)
6. Green Tea
Research has shown that green tea may fight leukemia. EGCG, the most active antioxidant component of green tea, has been found to inhibit growth of lymphoma cells and to cause programmed cell death of leukemia cells. EGCG is structurally similar to a drug used to treat cancer, methotrexate. Asian women who have had stage I or II breast cancer that drink 3 – 5 or more cups of green tea daily seem to have reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence. (Inoue M, et al. Cancer Lett. 2001;167:175-82; Seely D, et al. Integr Cancer Ther. 2005. 4:144-55.3926,13189.) Men with high-grade prostate intraepithelial neoplasia who took 200 mg of EGCG three times daily for a year had a reduced risk of progression to prostate cancer. (Bettuzzi S, et al. Cancer Res. 2006;66:1234-40.)
Probiotics can help your immune system remain vigilant, limit cancer-causing toxins in your intestines and are especially useful if you take antibiotics, chemotherapy or are having radiation treatment to your abdomen. Probiotics may help prevent post-radiation sepsis, a potentially fatal body-wide infection. (Korschunov VM, et al. J Med Microbiol. 1996;44:70-4.) Japanese researchers have found that use of a probiotic containing Lactobacillus organisms almost doubled the time to recurrence in people with superficial bladder cancer. Morever, the natural tendency of one in three new bladder cancers to have a more aggressive grade disappeared almost completely. (Aso, Y, et al. Urol Int. 1992;49(3):125-9; Aso, Y. European Urology. 1995; 27(2):104-109.)
Taking melatonin in combination with a hormone-suppressing drug (triptorelin) used for metastatic prostate cancer reduces some of the blood markers for prostate cancer, such as prostate specific antigen and prolactin, apparently increasing sensitivity to this drug. This study used 20 mg of melatonin a day, taken orally. (Lissoni P, et al. Eur Urol .997;31:178-81.) Melatonin plus chemotherapy in patients with metastatic solid tumors seems to increase regression rate and one-year survival rate by approximately 50% compared to chemotherapy alone. (Lissoni P, et al. Eur J Cancer. 1999;35:1688-92.)
Cranberry juice may help with ovarian cancer treatment. Researchers found that ovarian cancer cells pretreated with cranberry juice were more six times sensitive to treatment with cisplatin or paraplatin than cells not treated with cranberry. Compounds unique to cranberries appear to bind to and block certain tumor promoter proteins found in the ovarian cancer cells, making them more vulnerable to attack from the platinum drugs. The dose given was equivalent to about a cup of juice. A cranberry supplement can provide the benefits of cranberry juice, without the sugar. (Singh, AP, et al. Phytother Res. 2009 Jan 26. [Epub ahead of print])
10. Beta Glucan
Maitake mushrooms contain beta glucan, a polysaccharide (sugar molecule) which has been shown to possess antitumor activity. The “D-fraction” of beta glucan appears to be the most active and potent form. Maitake and beta glucan have been shown to stimulate the immune system by activating natural killer cells, cytotoxic T-cells, interleukin-1 and superoxide anions. Some research suggests that maitake can prevent metastasis of experimentally induced tumors as well as prevent tumor occurrence in normal cells. (Adachi K, Chem Pharm Bull. (Tokyo) 1987;35:262-70; Nanba H. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1995;768:243-5; Nanba H, Kubo K. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1997;833:204-7.)
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Numerous studies have proven the importance that nutrition and supplements can have in minimizing cancer risk and in preventing recurrence in cancer survivors. Ask your doctor to work with you to incorporate supplements into your treatment plan. In addition to eating a balanced diet, supplements can help ensure that you are getting the most comprehensive nutritional support possible.
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Article updated on: May 7th, 2009