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Should you take antioxidants with chemotherapy?

"No," say many doctors.

"Yes," says current research.

In fact, a review of 70 scientific papers on antioxidants and chemotherapy found that taking antioxidants along with chemotherapy makes chemotherapy more effective. Some antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and E, inhibit the growth of cancer cells. They also enhance the effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and interferon.

In two studies--one a randomized and controlled trial, the other a laboratory study-vitamin E was found to protect against nerve damage from Cisplatin, a common chemotherapy drug. In addition to the protection, vitamin E didn't reduce its effectiveness.

In a year-and-a-half human trial, patients on Cisplatin, who also took 300 IU of vitamin E a day right before their chemo and continued taking it for three months after their treatments ended, had less nerve damage than those on Cisplatin alone. Nerve damage occurred in 85.7 percent of people on chemo alone, but only in 30.7 percent of people on both chemo and vitamin E. Not only was there a lower incidence of nerve damage, it was less severe in patients taking this antioxidant.

Cisplatin falls into the category of chemotherapy agents called alkylating agents. Some cancer specialists believe this type of drug has a weaker effect when antioxidants are taken at the same time. Alkylating agents are thought to work by producing free radicals in cancer cells and, in theory, antioxidants would interfere with this action. But they don't. This study looked only at vitamin E's activity with chemotherapy. Hopefully, there will be studies using chemotherapy with other antioxidants like selenium and vitamins A and C. I predict the results will find that drug therapy with antioxidants is more effective and less toxic than the chemotherapy alone.

Ralph Moss, PhD, an expert in the field of alternative therapies for cancer treatment and the author of numerous books on cancer, points out that using antioxidants as part of cancer therapy has been given a bad rap. Within the field of oncology, he points out, there's still a debate over whether or not chemotherapy has any benefits. That said, if you're on chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you may very well want to add an antioxidant formula to your regime. It could enhance the effects of your chemotherapy.

Pace A., et al. "Neuroprotective effect of vitamin E supplementation in patients treated with cisplatin chemotherapy." J Clin Oncol, 2003 March 1;21(5):927-31.

Prasad, K.N., W. C. Cole, and J.E. Prasad. "Multiple antioxidant vitamins as an adjunct to standard and experimental cancer therapies," Z Onkol, 31, 1999.

"Antioxidants do not decrease the efficacy of chemotherapy," International Clinical Nutrition Review, vol 21, no 1, January 2001.
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Title Annotation:Nutrition Detective
Publication:Women's Health Letter
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Previous Article:Antioxidants: more is not always better.
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