There is much controversy surrounding whether women should be taking antioxidant supplements during and after breast cancer treatment. There is some concern that antioxidants might actually interfere with treatment and until now, there has been little research on the long-term effects of antioxidants. However, a new study from Harvard University concluded that supplementation with antioxidants after treatment for breast cancer is not only safe but may help improve survival.
Antioxidant supplementation is quite common in breast cancer patients. A July 2009 report published in the journal Cancer found that women continued to take mega doses of vitamins containing antioxidants in an attempt to boost their overall health despite concerns that they may be counterproductive. Researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health tracked the use of antioxidant supplements among 764 women in the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project. Among the 663 women who were receiving chemotherapy, hormone treatment or radiation for breast cancer, 60.5 percent said they were taking antioxidants during breast cancer treatment.
Previous research suggested that high doses of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and selenium, might interfere with radiation and some types of chemotherapy. Those treatments attack tumor cells by generating free radicals, which vitamin supplements may essentially “clean up,” preventing them from attacking the cancer. Other studies, however, suggested that just like healthy cells, cancer cells thrive in the presence of high doses of antioxidants.
The latest research to support the use of antioxidants comes out of Harvard University. A May 2013 article published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment found that supplementation with powerful antioxidants is safe and may promote longevity. Researchers analyzed data from over 12,000 breast cancer survivors in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project, a collection of 4 cohort studies of breast cancer survivors from the United States and China. The analysis examined the post diagnosis use of supplements (vitamins A, B, C, D, E and multivitamins) for 1-5 years. Sixty percent of the women reported using supplements during the 5 years after diagnosis. Breast cancer accounted for 65% of the total of 1,298 deaths that occurred during the follow-up period.
After adjusting for interactions with smoking, treatment and hormonal status, the use of any antioxidant supplement, categorized in this study as vitamins C, E or a multivitamin, was associated with a 16% lower risk of dying from any cause over follow-up, and for those who used all three supplements, the risk was 21% lower. Vitamin C supplementation was associated with a 19% lower risk of death and a 10% reduction in the risk of breast cancer occurrence, and vitamin E use reduced all-cause mortality by 15% and the recurrence of breast cancer by 12%. Vitamin D supplementation was associated with a 36% reduction in recurrence among women with estrogen receptor-positive tumors (ER+), but not in women with estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) tumors.
In this large group of breast cancer survivors, use of vitamin or antioxidant supplements was not associated with an increased risk of recurrence or death, but instead was associated with improved survival. If you or someone you love is a breast cancer survivor, you can give them the antioxidant power of 20 fruits and vegetables in one delicious beverage powder. Ultimate Reds from Dr. Newton’s Naturals is the ultimate antioxidant powerhouse with everything from acai fruit to resveratrol. Each serving contains a whopping 800 mg of Vitamin C.