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22-07-2009 | Oncology | Article

Use of antioxidant supplements common during breast cancer treatment


Free abstract

MedWire News: The majority of women, use antioxidant supplements during radiation or systemic treatment for breast cancer, especially White women with high socioeconomic status, a US study suggests.

Although the effectiveness of oral antioxidants is unclear, many cancer patients regularly use such supplements. The aim of this study, reported in the journal Cancer, was to investigate the prevalence and predictors of antioxidant supplementation during breast cancer treatment.

Heather Greenlee (Columbia University, New York, USA) and colleagues followed-up women who took part in the Long Island Cancer Study project and were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1996 and 1997.

Women were questioned by telephone interview about their intake of antioxidant supplements during breast cancer treatment.

A total of 764 women completed the telephone follow-up and provided details about antioxidant use. These women were younger, more likely to be White, and had a higher level of education and socioeconomic status than women who did not complete follow-up.

Of these 764 women, 73% used antioxidant supplements before breast cancer diagnosis, whereas 85% did so afterwards; 61% of those who received adjuvant treatment used concomitant antioxidant supplements.

The proportion of women who took supplements during chemotherapy and radiotherapy was similar (39% and 42%, respectively), and in both cases supplementation was associated with previous use of herbal products. Sixty-two per cent of women used supplements during tamoxifen treatment and this was associated with prior herbal product use, as well as lower body mass index, moderate alcohol intake, and family breast cancer history.

About two-thirds of all antioxidant users took more than the recommended daily allowance. In addition to prior use of herbal products (relative risk [RR]=1.72), tamoxifen use (RR=3.66) and high dietary intake of fruit and vegetables before diagnosis (relative risk [RR]=1.71) were most highly associated with any antioxidant use.

Because of the widespread use of these supplements suggested by this study, the authors recommend “that oncologists should discuss supplement use and dosing with their patients” as “antioxidant supplements may dampen the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a part of Springer Science+Business Media. © Current Medicine Group Ltd; 2009

By Catherine Nieman Sims

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