Antioxidants have been in the spotlight recently – as a way to prevent damage to cells and, possibly, reduce the risk of cancer. But studies looking at antioxidants for cancer prevention have been inconsistent. Now, new research from Jefferson’s Medical College Kimmel Cancer center adds further support to the idea that antioxidants can prevent and even treat cancer.
Antioxidants and Cancer: What New Research Shows
The researchers at Kimmel Cancer Center used a particular tumor marker called Cav-1, a tumor suppressor gene found in breast tumors. Women with breast cancer who have this marker have a more favorable prognosis.
Researchers traced this gene using a special technique. They found when the Cav-1 gene was knocked out, oxidative stress within cells was greater, and the mitochondria, tiny organelles that produce energy function abnormally. This fuels tumor growth.
In fact, they discovered when Cav-1, which reduces oxidative stress, is out of the picture tumor volumes increase by up to four times.
Antioxidants for Cancer: How Do They Help?
Antioxidants help to reduce oxidative stress that causes the mitochondria to malfunction and tumors to grow larger – in much the same way that the Cav-1 gene does. Although you may think of antioxidants as natural compounds in fruits and vegetables, there are also medications that reduce oxidative stress in cells. These include metformin, used to treat diabetes, and chloroquine, used for malaria treatment. Preliminary studies already show that metformin reduces the risk of cancer in type 2 diabetics.
Antioxidants and Cancer: The Bottom Line?
Doctors recommend that patients avoid using antioxidant supplements while they’re getting radiation or chemotherapy to treat cancer since they can interfere with cancer treatment. On the other hand, getting more antioxidants naturally through fruits and vegetables could reduce the risk of ever getting cancer in the first place.
Antioxidants come in many different forms and from many different sources. Some antioxidants include vitamin C, found in fruits, and carotenoids, abundant in sweet potatoes, carrots and kale. Other antioxidants are vitamin E, coenzyme Q, lipoic acid and glutathione.
It may be tempting to go out and buy one of the many antioxidant supplements for cancer prevention available at health food stores. Don’t do it. Antioxidants work better as a team – with other components in plants. Some studies also raise questions about the safety of taking antioxidant in supplement form. Get antioxidants for cancer prevention the way nature intended – by eating more fruits and vegetables.
Eurekalert.org. “Jefferson researchers provide genetic evidence that antioxidants can help treat cancer”
Written by Kristie.Leong.M.D
tags: Antioxidants, Cancer, Prevention, Research, Shows