Antioxidants may actually help cancer to spread faster

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shira

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Jan 12, 2005
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I remember reading a related article in Scientific American about a year ago, which questioned the conventional wisdom that antioxidants are life-extending miracle-compounds. But here's new research on the subject that suggests that antioxidants may be exactly the wrong compounds to put in your body if you want to stop cancer.

Since the term "antioxidants" made the leap from the realm of biochemistry labs and into the public consciousness in the 1990s, Americans have come to believe that more is better when it comes to consuming the substance that comes in things like acai berries, green tea and leafy veggies.

A provocative new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature raises important questions about that assumption.

Antioxidants — which include vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, and are contained in thousands of foods — are thought to protect cells from damage by acting as defenders against something called "free radicals" which the body produces as a part of metabolism or that can enter through the environment.

That's all great for normal cells. But what researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found is that antioxidants can work their magic on cancerous cells, too — turbo-charging the process by which they grow and spread.

Researcher Sean Morrison and his colleagues conducted experiments on mice that had been transplanted with skin cancer cells (melanoma) from human patients. They gave nothing to one group. To the other they gave doses of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) which is a common antioxidant that's used in nutritional and bodybuilding supplements and has been used as a treatment for patients with HIV/AIDS and in some children with certain genetic disorders.

The results were alarming: Those in the second group had markedly higher levels of cancer cells in their blood, grew more tumors and the tumors were larger and more widespread than in the second.


"What we're starting to learn is that there can be bad cells from cancer that appear to benefit more from antioxidants than normal cells," he said in an interview.

Morrison, director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, explained that it has to do with something called oxidative stress.

Scientists have known for a while now that cancer metastasis — especially when it involves spreading a great distance to another part of the body — is a very inefficient process and that many cells die along the way. This is likely due to oxidative stress, which is an inability by the body to counteract the harmful effect of free radicals. When antioxidants supplements are given, the paper hypothesizes, they may give new life to those cancerous cells that are on the edge of dying.

Morrison said that previous studies have shown that the progression of metastasis of human melanoma cells in mice is predictive of their metastasis in humans, which raises concerns about the use of dietary antioxidants by patients with cancer.

Moreover, melanoma may not be the only type of cancer to be impacted this way. A similar study conducted at Vanderbilt University and published in PLoS One in 2012 involving mice with prostate cancer also showed that antioxidants appeared to increase the proliferation of cells in the pre-cancerous lesions.


Morrison said that further study needs to be done to confirm the findings and that cancer patients should still consume antioxidants as part of a healthy diet.

But, he added, "personally, from the results we've seen, I would avoid supplementing my diet with large amounts of antioxidants if I had cancer."

Over the past 20 years, numerous studies were launched to ascertain the effect of antioxidants on other conditions ranging from heart disease to memory loss. Early results have mostly been mixed, but that hasn't stopped food companies from hyping their disease-fighting abilities.
I also read recently that the latest research suggests that whole-fat milk products are actually better for heart-health than reduced-fat and non-fat milk products, and that getting a routine yearly physical may be worse overall for your health than only going to the doctor when you have symptoms.

I've already sworn off of PSA testing, and think the jury on routine mammograms is moving toward the "hung" state.

Wow. Seems like the whole world of preventive medicine is being turned upside down. So maybe the answer is to just do what comes naturally. Don't worry; be happy.
 

shira

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Jan 12, 2005
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What's the theory behind not seeing the doctor annually?
Well, here's one summary:

We have gradually come to realize that the routine physical did little or nothing to improve health outcomes and was largely a waste of time and money. Today the emphasis is on identifying factors that can be altered to improve outcomes. We are even seeing articles in the popular press telling the public that no medical group advises annual checkups for healthy adults. If patients see their doctor only when they have symptoms, the doctor can take advantage of those visits to update vaccinations and any indicated screening tests.

The Physical Exam Itself

The physical exam of a healthy, asymptomatic adult is unlikely to reveal any significant abnormality (1) that would not have been detected eventually when symptoms developed and (2) whose earlier detection and treatment would reduce morbidity and mortality in the long run.

A directed physical exam is sometimes indicated in patients with risk factors for specific conditions. A Pap smear is indicated in most women, but not every year, and the accompanying pelvic exam is likely a waste of time.

For healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 65, The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends only these components of the traditional physical exam:

For men, a blood pressure measurement.
For women, a blood pressure measurement and a periodic Pap smear.
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We are increasingly questioning screening tests that were formerly recommended. The annual chest x-ray, tine test, and urinalysis are long gone. The recommended age limits for mammography have changed. Routine PSA testing is being discouraged. A recent study suggested that a woman whose DEXA scan shows normal bone density or mild osteopenia need not be rescreened for 15 years.

We don’t need to examine all the published literature on screening tests, because the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has done all the work for us. They continually update recommended screening tests for different age and risk groups based on the latest studies. There are other organizations in the US and elsewhere that make similar recommendations but that may differ to some degree in different countries. In general, a specialty organization is likely to recommend more screening in its particular area of interest, based on a different focus in interpreting the same published evidence. The American Academy of Family Physicians, with a broader perspective, generally follows USPSTF recommendations.

The Early Detection Myth

There is a general perception, among the public and among doctors, that there’s no such thing as a bad screening test, that early detection is important, that knowing is always better than not knowing. If something is wrong with you, you need to know because, if you find a problem in time, it can be treated effectively to prevent morbidity and mortality. If you get a checkup and everything looks OK, you can breathe a sigh of relief and relax. Unfortunately this is all wrong.

A recent book explains why: Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health, by Drs. H. Gilbert Welch, Lisa M. Schwartz, and Steven Woloshin. It’s a comprehensive explanation of how test results make people sick and why visiting a doctor can be hazardous to your health. I reviewed it in an earlier article here on ScienceBasedMedicine.org. Please read that link and then come back.

Welch et al. commented

…some people may feel safer having their potential problems diagnosed and treated. For some, that may make the treatment side effects and hassle factors seem worth it… [but] the sense of being safer is likely an exaggerated view of the reality.

For a healthy, asymptomatic patient, the physical exam with the laying on of hands and stethoscope and other rituals is pretty much meaningless. If nothing is found, it can produce false reassurance. If something is found, it is not likely to prolong the patient’s life and it has a significant likelihood of leading to harm from unnecessary treatment or from a diagnostic cascade of tests, unnecessary surgeries, unnecessary expense, and unnecessary worry.

The problem is that people tend to argue from the perspective of "I know for sure that routine physicals save lives. My uncle is alive today because his prostate cancer was diagnosed early, and now he's cancer-free." And they think this justifies all sorts of screening tests. But of course, the problem is that a person in most cases has no way of knowing that "early detection" saved their life; they have no way of knowing if the early-detected cancer would have caused them no harm until they died years later of some other cause.

And, of course, there's the very, very real possibility that unnecessary treatment will cause real and serious harm, including death.

But even if routine physicals and all of the unneeded treatment they lead to did "no harm," they waste an awful lot of money for - apparently - little if any benefit. That's money that would be better spent on actually treating medical conditions that need treatment. And saved money that would reduce the cost of medicine in the U.S.
 

Annisman*

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Aug 20, 2010
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This is why I only put in my body what it tells me is incredibly delicious, with one report saying one thing one year and a contradictory report the next year, it's the only way to be sure !
 

shortylickens

No Lifer
Jul 15, 2003
82,854
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This is why I only put in my body what it tells me is incredibly delicious, with one report saying one thing one year and a contradictory report the next year, it's the only way to be sure !


Some people actually like pomegranates.
 

kage69

Lifer
Jul 17, 2003
27,851
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Wonderful.

Wait, don't they give cancer patients on chemo extreme doses of vitamin C intravenously and see improvements?

This is getting confusing.
 

nickqt

Diamond Member
Jan 15, 2015
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Antioxidants basically absorb free radicals, which are often the molecules that cause DNA damage and cell mutations to begin with.

So, antioxidants before you have cancerous cells metastasizing isn't likely going to be "bad" for your health. But, it's possible that if you have cancerous cells floating through your blood and lymph system and free radicals aren't there to occasionally screw up their DNA, then it could cause the cancerous cells to have that as an advantage.

Another way to look at it: usually, you don't want to put poisonous chemicals into your body, and you definitely don't want to put radiation into your body, and yet, they are effective, life-saving treatments for cancer.

So, taken to absurdity, you could argue that because antioxidants may allow existing cancerous cells to survive better, and radiation/poisonous chemicals hurt cancer cells, we should stop taking/thinking of antioxidants as beneficial, and we should all start taking prophylactic doses of methotrexate and ionizing radiation.

Cancer changes almost everything in how you stay alive, once it's extant. Keep that in mind.
 

bradley

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Jan 9, 2000
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Antioxidants basically absorb free radicals, which are often the molecules that cause DNA damage and cell mutations to begin with.

So, antioxidants before you have cancerous cells metastasizing isn't likely going to be "bad" for your health. But, it's possible that if you have cancerous cells floating through your blood and lymph system and free radicals aren't there to occasionally screw up their DNA, then it could cause the cancerous cells to have that as an advantage.

Another way to look at it: usually, you don't want to put poisonous chemicals into your body, and you definitely don't want to put radiation into your body, and yet, they are effective, life-saving treatments for cancer.

So, taken to absurdity, you could argue that because antioxidants may allow existing cancerous cells to survive better, and radiation/poisonous chemicals hurt cancer cells, we should stop taking/thinking of antioxidants as beneficial, and we should all start taking prophylactic doses of methotrexate and ionizing radiation.

Cancer changes almost everything in how you stay alive, once it's extant. Keep that in mind.

The dose will always make the poison... with rare exception. Everything is a double-edge sword and needs moderation; but personally I tend to stay away from ionizing radiation. ;)

Too many electrons donated in too short a period can then become oxidizers, instead of antioxidants. Yet we face more toxic insults now than in our entire history. There's a huge amount of positive ion generating devices surrounding us or even tethered to us needing to be quenched on the dailyeee. This is just basic common sense.

And antioxidants don't just merely quench free radicals; the very donation of electrons to the human body is essential for health and survival -- which happens every nanosecond within the lower ionosphere. And that electrical potential further increases every time we touch the earth. Even electrically charged air from waterfalls and crashing waves or that very infrared sunlight touching your skin are antioxidants.

Otherwise I personally believe medical science has an agenda (founded in greed) in trying to categorize such a broad range of antioxidants into a narrow band that only includes a few supplements and extracts, instead of whole foods.
 

nickqt

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Jan 15, 2015
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The dose will always make the poison... with rare exception. Everything is a double-edge sword and needs moderation; but personally I tend to stay away from ionizing radiation. ;)

Too many electrons donated in too short a period can then become oxidizers, instead of antioxidants. Yet we face more toxic insults now than in our entire history. There's a huge amount of positive ion generating devices surrounding us or even tethered to us needing to be quenched on the dailyeee. This is just basic common sense.

And antioxidants don't just merely quench free radicals; the very donation of electrons to the human body is essential for health and survival -- which happens every nanosecond within the lower ionosphere. And that electrical potential further increases every time we touch the earth. Even electrically charged air from waterfalls and crashing waves or that very infrared sunlight touching your skin are antioxidants.

Otherwise I personally believe medical science has an agenda (founded in greed) in trying to categorize such a broad range of antioxidants into a narrow band that only includes a few supplements and extracts, instead of whole foods.
Antioxidants that you take in with food are the best antioxidants simply because they are ostensibly paired with healthier living/diet/etc.

Medical science, for all of the greed arguments lobbed at it, has greatly increased the lifespan of the normal adult. People expect it to just all-out cure everything, when curing thousands of different kinds of diseases in a population that literally has billions of genetic differences, is almost impossible, at least for now. Genomic therapy, which is becoming a thing now, is still medical science, and should be able to offer more individualized treatments for people as it advances.
 

bradley

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Jan 9, 2000
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I believe improvement in housing and sanitation and the greater availability of healthy fresh food and clean drinking water have done vastly more to increase lifespan versus anything medicine has done. Depending on how the statistics are tabulated, death by medical malpractice fluctuates within the top 3 reasons for US mortality.

Deaths by medical mistakes hit records
http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/deaths-by-medical-mistakes-hit-records

It's a chilling reality – one often overlooked in annual mortality statistics: Preventable medical errors persist as the No. 3 killer in the U.S. – third only to heart disease and cancer – claiming the lives of some 400,000 people each year. At a Senate hearing Thursday, patient safety officials put their best ideas forward on how to solve the crisis, with IT often at the center of discussions.
 

nickqt

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Jan 15, 2015
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I believe improvement in housing and sanitation and the greater availability of healthy fresh food and clean drinking water have done vastly more to increase lifespan versus anything medicine has done. Depending on how the statistics are tabulated, death by medical malpractice fluctuates within the top 3 reasons for US mortality.

Deaths by medical mistakes hit records
http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/deaths-by-medical-mistakes-hit-records

Ask the average cancer survivor how badly they despise medicine. Or someone suffering from appendicitis. Or someone who has a bone infection. Or epilepsy. Or multiple sclerosis.

You mention preventative health as a way to avoid medicine. I'm 100% all for preventative health. But once you're rocking a tumor, or septicemia, clean water and sanitation is an afterthought.

Medicine is dangerous, because our bodies are made up of trillions of cells that have thousands of metabolic processes continually operating, and we just don't understand 99% of them as of right now. But that doesn't mean medicine is bad. It means that medicine is usually the last resort after you've treated your body as a dumpster. Or, if you're just dealt a bad hand of genetics. Or, more commonly, a mixture of genetics and environment.

Explain to a Type I diabetic over the age of 15 about how shitty the medical field is, and they're probably going to look at you quizzically.
 
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