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What Is the Relationship between Antioxidants and Cancer?

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  • Written By: Hollie Thomas
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Antioxidants are substances that some people believe might protect cells from becoming cancerous by stabilizing unstable molecules, known as free radicals, that are thought to contribute to illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Various studies have centered on this relationship between antioxidants and cancer, and these studies have produced varied results. The disparity between the conclusions has led some people within the scientific community to question the efficacy of using antioxidant supplementation when attempting to combat or prevent cancer.

Within the body, antioxidants act as a defense against the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable, so they can damage cells, proteins and other genetic materials, such as DNA, thus leading to many health-related problems. Enzymes, which are proteins within the body, are known to contain antioxidants, as do nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, selenium and beta carotene. During some studies, these nutrients have been given to patients to explore the relationship between antioxidants and cancer.

During the 1990s, cancer prevention research examined the effects of a combination of antioxidants given to healthy men and women who were considered to be at significant risk of developing gastric cancer. The results suggested that antioxidant supplementation significantly reduced the probability of gastric and other cancers. Consequently, a link between antioxidants and cancer prevention was established.

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By contrast, other research conducted on male smokers during the mid-1990s showed that lung cancer rates increased significantly with beta carotene supplementation. Vitamin E supplementation was found to have neither a harmful nor beneficial affect on the sample group. As a result, the relationship between antioxidants and cancer prevention became questionable, and clinical trials have since attempted to further analyze and evaluate this relationship.

Many breast cancer sufferers believe that by taking antioxidant supplements, they will be protected from recurring tumors and that the side effects of breast cancer treatment might be alleviated. Some oncologists, however, believe that women who are receiving some chemotherapy medicines and radiation treatment should avoid using these supplements during treatments as they might have an adverse affect on the outcomes. Radiation treatment and some chemotherapy medicines work by helping to produce free radicals that can attack cancerous cells. Antioxidants are known to destroy free radicals, so it is the opinion of some people in the medical profession that supplementation can interfere with treatment.

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turquoise
Post 3

Those who eat a lot of antioxidant foods and supplements, and also drink alcohol regularly, I've got news for you. You are actually harming your biggest tool for fighting cancer by drinking alcohol, your liver.

Our liver is basically the antioxidant organ. It processes and removes toxins from the body, the same toxins that can do a lot of damage if they remain, including increasing the risk of cancer.

Alcohol is also a toxin so it not only tires out the liver but it also gives the liver less time to remove other toxins from the body.

stoneMason
Post 2

@bluedolphin-- What about supplements like extracts? Do you think they are as beneficial as fresh fruit? I'm not a huge fan of fruit. I eat apples and bananas but I don't like any other type of fruit. So for extra antioxidants I take supplements. Right now I'm taking grape seed extract which is said to be rich in antioxidants. The extract is in a capsule and I take one every day. I believe it helps because I have been feeling healthier and more energetic lately. I'm not sure if it's as healthy as fresh fruit though.

bluedolphin
Post 1

Dark colored fruits and veggies are the best for fighting cancer. They're often referred to as "super foods" these days. These re dark red or purple fruits like pomegranates, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries. I personally try to eat pomegranates as much as I can when they are in season. They're not the cheapest fruit but I believe that they are miraculous in terms of preventing illness and cancer.

Some people drink pomegranate juices with added sugar but I don't think those are beneficial. Sugar actually increases the risk of cancer and these fruits are only helpful when they're eaten fresh.

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