While oncologists have long been concerned that chemotherapy patients' use of antioxidents as a health supplement could decrease the effectiveness of the chemotherapy treatments; new studies show that the opposite could be the case; offering better recovery from the therapy's negative side effects.
From Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden
Inflammation is a natural and necessary response in the body whenever we are accosted by harmful germs or when we injure ourselves. When this occurs, our immune system steps in to fight foreign invaders and to bring our body back into balance so that we can heal.
Inflammatory chemicals are produced during this process, which can be harmful to our tissues, but antioxidants in our foods, such as vitamins C and E, help to quell this response and restore order to our tissues.
Inflammation can run amok, however, and cause persistent damage to healthy tissue, especially if we smoke or if we are overweight or obese. Chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat cancer also produce severe inflammation in the body, and this particular inflammatory response helps to kill off cancer cells. But it also harms healthy tissue in the process.
Many oncologists have been fearful of having their patients take any antioxidants during chemotherapy for fear that antioxidants might reduce the effectiveness of the chemo.
In a recent article in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Dr. Keith Block, a renowned integrative cancer specialist affiliated with the University of Illinois, discussed his review of more than 2,300 studies on the use of antioxidants during chemotherapy, and his report is very reassuring.
In summary, antioxidants often help to reduce side effects from chemotherapy, and this may allow patients to complete their full course of medication without interruption, which itself leads to better outcomes. Certain antioxidants also enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy, reduce long-term toxicity and improve survival.
Not a single study reviewed by Block showed any evidence of antioxidants interfering with the effectiveness of chemotherapy. In fact, a recent article looking at the impact of antioxidants in Chinese women undergoing treatment for invasive breast cancer found that use of antioxidant vitamin supplements in the first six months after diagnosis resulted in a reduced risk of both mortality and cancer recurrence.
Other studies have suggested survival benefit in certain cancers when patients take melatonin, as well as reduced toxicity from chemo with the use of glutathione and coenzyme Q10 among others.
Original Article: Antioxidants and Chemotherapy