In the News: Integrative Medicine: Antioxidants and Chemotherapy

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Antioxidants and Chemotherapy

By Drs. Kay judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden

Published: Thursday, May. 31, 2012

Inflammation, and the use of antioxidants to put out inflammatory fires, is a hot topic these days. What do we mean by inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural and necessary response in the body whenever we are accosted by harmful germs or when we injure ourselves. When this occurs, our immune system steps in to fight foreign invaders and to bring our body back into balance so that we can heal.

Inflammatory chemicals are produced during this process, which can be harmful to our tissues, but antioxidants in our foods, such as vitamins C and E, help to quell this response and restore order to our tissues.

Inflammation can run amok, however, and cause persistent damage to healthy tissue, especially if we smoke or if we are overweight or obese. Chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat cancer also produce severe inflammation in the body, and this particular inflammatory response helps to kill off cancer cells. But it also harms healthy tissue in the process.

Many oncologists have been fearful of having their patients take any antioxidants during chemotherapy for fear that antioxidants might reduce the effectiveness of the chemo.

In a recent article in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Dr. Keith Block, a renowned integrative cancer specialist affiliated with the University of Illinois, discussed his review of more than 2,300 studies on the use of antioxidants during chemotherapy, and his report is very reassuring.

In summary, antioxidants often help to reduce side effects from chemotherapy, and this may allow patients to complete their full course of medication without interruption, which itself leads to better outcomes. Certain antioxidants also enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy, reduce long-term toxicity and improve survival.

Not a single study reviewed by Block showed any evidence of antioxidants interfering with the effectiveness of chemotherapy. In fact, a recent article looking at the impact of antioxidants in Chinese women undergoing treatment for invasive breast cancer found that use of antioxidant vitamin supplements in the first six months after diagnosis resulted in a reduced risk of both mortality and cancer recurrence.

Other studies have suggested survival benefit in certain cancers when patients take melatonin, as well as reduced toxicity from chemo with the use of glutathione and coenzyme Q10 among others.

So, if you are affected by cancer, what should you be thinking about to protect yourself during and after chemotherapy? First and foremost, begin by eating a super-healthful, plant-based diet that is loaded with dark-colored fruits and veggies so that you maximize your intake of antioxidants from your food, which is the most powerful way to get them.

You can also consider supplementing your diet with some of the more powerful antioxidants, such as fish oil, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium, though we recommend that you meet with an integrative cancer specialist first so that you can determine which supplements are ideal for you, given your particular tumor as well as your treatment regimen.

And for those of you who have been affected by cancer, either because you or a loved one have faced this disease, there is a conference coming to Sacramento in September that you should know about. It's titled "Cancer as a Turning Point, From Surviving to Thriving," and it is a gathering of some of the best and most inspiring experts in this business.

Cancer as a Turning Point is sponsored by the non-profit organization Healing Journeys, whose vision is that everyone touched by cancer or any life-altering condition be empowered to move from surviving to thriving. This conference is usually offered in two cities across the country every year.  The conference is free to all attendees, though donations are greatly appreciated to offset the cost, and donations are also tax-deductible. For more information, and to register, go to

And for more information on an integrative approach to cancer treatment, look at Block's 2009 book "Life Over Cancer" (Bantam, $28, 608 pages) or Alschuler's gem that she co-wrote with Karolyn Gazella, "The Definitive Guide to Cancer: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing" (Celestial Arts, $25, 496 pages), now in its third edition.

~ Be Well! ♥

Protecting the Health of Women - Because We're Worth It!

From the Summer 2004 newsletter of the Women's Community Cancer Project

c/o the Women's Center, 46 Pleasant Sreet, Cambridge, MA 02139

Cosmetics, Parabens, and Breast Cancer by Rita Arditti

Early this year the media reported that English researchers identified parabens in samples of breast tumors. Parabens (alkyl esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid) are widely used as antimicrobial preservatives in thousands of cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceutical products, and food.

There are six commonly used forms (Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, p-Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, n-Butylparaben and Benzylparaben) and it is estimated that they are used in at least13,200 cosmetics products.

According to the lead researcher of the recent study, Philippa Darbre, an oncology expert at the university of Reading, in Edinburgh, the chemical form of the parabens found in 18 of the 20 tumors testedindicated that they originated from something applied to the skin, the most likely candidates being deodorants, antiperspirants, creams, or body sprays.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, accounting for nearly one of every three cancers diagnosed in U.S. women.

A campaign seeking the removal of toxic chemicals from cosmetics has been recently launched by Women's Voices for the Earth, a women's environmental justice group from Montana (

As a result of their initiative, a coalition of environmental and public health groups has emerged, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (, working to pressure the health and beauty industry to phase out the use of chemicals that are known or suspected carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxins.

In January 2003 the European Union banned the use of these chemicals. By September 2004, all cosmetics and personal care products sold in the member states of the European Union will have to be free of substances considered CMR I and CMR II (carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxins).

Accordingly, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is asking the U.S. cosmetics companies to sign the "Compact for the Global Production of Safer Health and Beauty Care Products" committing themselves to comply with those principles in the products they sell in the U.S. and other non-European markets.

The slogan of the campaign, "Because We're Worth It!" sends a clear message to those who disregard women's health concerns in the pursuit of profit.

  1. Keep an eye on the campaign, have your organization join it, and monitor the follow-up that will ensue.
  2. Spread the word about cosmetics, parabens, and cancer.
  3. Go to the webpage of the Environmental Working Group, and read their report, Skin Deep, a safety assessment of the ingredients in personal care products.
  4. Visit the webpage of Breast Cancer Action,, and keep yourself informed of new developments regarding corporate interests and cosmetics.

We are part a national and international movement to clean up theearth and out bodies. Think of the power we could have if millions of women demanded safe products for themselves and their families!

Luckily, Breast Cancer Action (BCA) from San Francisco ( an organization that is at the forefront of the movement developing critical analysis and recognition of the politics of breast cancer, has done a lot of work on cosmetics and breast cancer.

Their project "Think Before You Pink,", raises excellent questions regarding the cosmetics industry, breast cancer, and their obsession with pink paraphernalia.

BCA points out that a huge number of personal care products contain ingredients that may raise the risk of breast cancer but that the companies that produce them, nevertheless present themselves as committed to the eradication of breast cancer. They do so by running "cause-related marketing campaigns," exploited the good will of customers but making pitiful contributions to breast cancer research. (See the NY Times ad "Philanthropy or Hypocrisy," October 24, 2003 on the BCA webpage).

Paraben-free cosmetics from

Aubrey Organics Skin, Body & Hair Care Products Caribbean Pacifics Suncare Products Dr. Hauschka Earths Beauty Cosmetics Honeybee Gardens Kettle Care herbal Body Products Living Nature Products Logona Cosmetics Martina Gebhardt Naturkosmetiks Natural Solutions-Holistic Beauty&Health Organic Essentials Skincare (and Nutritional Product) Organic Excellence Hair Care Products Real Purity Cosmetics Restored Balance Herbal Products Sante Kosmetics Suki's Naturals AnneMarie Borlind Natural Beauty

Note: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and all Terressentials products, among others, are also paraben-free as well as made from organic ingredients.

Read full article here.