Antioxidants May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence
In 2000, 385 postmenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer (stages I, II, or III) between 1986 and 1988 answered questionnaires about their use of nutritional supplements during the past 12 to 13 years. Specific information was collected on types of supplements, amounts taken, duration of use, and whether the supplementation began before or after diagnosis. Breast cancer recurrence and breast cancer-related mortality were determined by reviewing medical records.
Women taking antioxidants either before or after their diagnosis of breast cancer were 46% less likely to have a breast cancer recurrence than were those who did not take any antioxidant supplements. Supplementation with vitamins C and E produced similar benefits when taken prior to diagnosis, but only if taken for more than three years. Women who started taking vitamin E after their diagnosis had a slightly reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence compared with those taking no vitamin E. However, taking vitamin C after diagnosis did not produce the same protective effect. Food sources of vitamins C and E did not have any significant effect on preventing breast cancer recurrence. The benefit of vitamins C and E in preventing recurrence of breast cancer appeared to occur only after the supplements had been taken regularly for at least three years.
Some studies have shown that antioxidants prevent primary and recurrent breast cancer, while other studies have failed to demonstrate this protective effect. The inconsistency between studies has not been well explained by researchers, but it may be related in part to differences in nutritional status among study participants, or to differences in the duration of the various studies.
Despite the lack of firm proof, women with breast cancer may benefit from taking vitamins C and E. These nutrients have not shown a detrimental effect on breast cancer prognosis or recurrence rate. Although no specific amounts of vitamins C and E have been established to protect against breast cancer, some physicians recommend taking 400 IU of vitamin E and 500 mg of vitamin C per day.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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