Antioxidant Vitamins May Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes
Posted Jan 14 2011 9:53am
A quick search of the Internet clearly shows that there remains a good deal of controversy and debate over the use of antioxidant vitamins by breast cancer (and other cancer) patients. The controversy arises over the impact of these antioxidants on the effectiveness of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. It has been suggested that these breast cancer treatments appear to work in part by causing oxidative stress and damage to the breast cancer cells; therefore, it has been thought that taking antioxidants during breast cancer treatment might reduce the treatment's effectiveness. However, it appears that just as many studies suggest that antioxidant vitamins do not negatively effect breast cancer treatment.
A new breast cancer study continues to add to this debate by assessing the impact of antioxidant vitamins given during breast cancer treatment and within the first six months after breast cancer diagnosis. Breast cancer researchers conducted a population-based study of nearly 5,000 Chinese women who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 2002 and 2006. Breast cancer researchers interviewed these breast cancer patients about 6 months after diagnosis and intermittently during the follow-up period. Analysis of the relationship between breast cancer recurrence, breast cancer survival, and vitamin use showed
Overall vitamin use during the first 6 months after breast cancer diagnosis was linked to reduced risk for a second breast cancer and reduced mortality.
Women who used antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin E had an 22% reduced risk for breast cancer recurrence and a 18% reduced risk of death.
The reduced risk for breast cancer recurrence and risk of death were seen when vitamin use was at the same time as breast cancer treatment and when vitamin use was separate from breast cancer treatment.
A greater reduction in risk for breast cancer-specific mortality was seen when antioxidant vitamin use was longer than 3 months in duration during the immediate post-diagnosis period; consumption of vitamins E and C for more than 3 months reduced risk by about 45% .
This reduced risk was not observed in breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.
This is an interesting study that will likely add fuel to the debate on the use of antioxidants during breast cancer treatment. According to this study, women taking antioxidant vitamins while undergoing chemotherapy saw an improvement in breast cancer outcomes. In contrast, women undergoing radiation therapy did not see this improvement. This suggests that these antioxidant vitamins might interact differently with different forms of breast cancer treatment. Many of us do not get adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals in our daily diets and thus find multivitamins and other dietary supplements an easy and convenient way to obtain these micronutrients. In addition to helping us meet our minimum daily requirements, research suggests that adequate intakes of some vitamins and minerals as well as other antioxidants might have a variety of health benefits. This current study suggests that antioxidant vitamins might improve breast cancer outcomes for some breast cancer patients, making the use of vitamins and antioxidants and important conversation to have with your doctor.