When I underwent radiation treatment for breast cancer I was not told to stop taking any of my Vitamins or supplements, which included those you mention. maybe your treatment center has different protocols, or perhaps it's you are ER+ and I have TNBC. Yes fish oil contains anti-oxidants and is great for heart health.
Breast Cancer Questions
Radiation and anti-oxidants: 2 questions
Asked by jad on Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Radiation and anti-oxidants: 2 questions
I'm at 5 days into my prescribed 33 day course of radiation for breast cancer.
It was noted on my meds sheet I have on file at the radiology center that I take a daily OTC multi-vitamin, and the oncology nurse advised that I stop taking it because vitamins A, C and E are (or contain) anti-oxidants which interfere with the radiation.
Question 1: Have you heard of this? Is it correct?
When I asked her about the omega-3 fish oil I take, she told me she didn't know.
I couldn't find any info concerning that on line.
Question 2: Does anyone here know if omega-3 fish oil has anti-oxidants?
There's so much information floating around. And when it's ambiguous it makes me crazy. Maybe I should stop eating my daily dose of 72% dark chocolate too, and be completely miserable. The chocolate was not listed on my med sheet. [that's supposed to be humor]
Thanks........you guys are great.
14 Answers from the Community
Radiation and chemotherapy work in part by oxidizing cancer cells. Thus anti-oxidants can work against those treatments, counteracting them. Here is a link to a worthwhile link from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's Integrative Medicine division that discusses what should be avoided during treatment and why: http://www.mskcc.org/multimedia/herbs-botanicals-and-supplements-during-treatment.
Dr. Wesa also notes that green tea should be avoided, as should high intake of foods naturally containing antioxidants (blueberries, for example.) This video is an excellent resource, from a reputable source.
I don't recall if she mentions fish oil, but you could send an email to Integrative Medicine at MSKCC, and someone would get back to you.
And adding another answer to this question, with a shorter video (15 minutes) on the topic:
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center integrative medicine expert Kathleen Wesa explains why antioxidants should be avoided during radiation therapy, the benefits of vitamin D, how phytoestrogens can contribute to cancer recurrence, and how to identify a reputable supplier of supplements. The Center’s integrative medicine specialists are available for consultations on best complementary therapy practices, she says.
I was told that very simple carbs can actually interfere with eradication of cancer cells because cancer cells love sugar.
However, I think I could never go without the dark chocolate and out of desperation, I would go for a high percentage with a low sugar in it.
1. Yes and yes.. Antioxidants compete with the cancer cell killing properties of radiation. Make sure you are not using any lotions, creams, make up etc.with antioxidants as well, especially vitamin E which is a pretty common ingredient.
2. The only way to know is to look at the ingredient list on your fish oil bottle. The FDA doesn't regulate nutritional supplements so manufacturers can make them with pretty much anything they want.
Yes, it is recommended to avoid all the antioxidants whether extra vitamins, herbal remedies, or nutritional supplements. The reason, which is logical when you think about it, is that anti-oxidants can mask cancer cells, so the meds or rads can't find them, so to speak. All the anti-oxidants your body needs should come naturally from fresh, healthy food choices. And the best omega-3s should come from eating fish.
I had read that you shouldn't take antioxidants (including fish oil) during radiation, so I specifically asked my radiation oncologist about it. He said it was fine to continue taking everything on my list of supplement and OTC meds. There seems to be a difference of opinion between medical centers on this issue.
here is a link that might answer your question, It is a peer reviewed scholarly article on the interactions between anti-oxidants and cancer therapies. I hope this helps, Carm RN.
I was told the same thing for the multivitamin. The fish oil was ok. Dr. suggested additional calcium tablet (it has Vit. D in it too). Had to stop Ginkgo (there goes the memory) and the toe fungus pill was a no no too. No green tea. I had the whole list of vitamins and prescription meds and they put them into the computer, and up came all the no no pills. Whatever it takes to have the cancer treatments work, I'm doing it. I'm 67, and just completed my 20 rounds of radiation for breast cancer.
I guess every doctor is different in the way they handle their cases. I didn't have t have chemo or radio, but my doctor me long before my surgery was due to double up on my multi-vitamin and my vitamin C. Your multi-vitamin helps your immune system and the vitamin C helps the healing process. Get a second opinion from another doctor or your trusted pharmacist. I am triple positive too, so all it can do it help me.
@nonnie917 - the significant difference is that you did not have chemo or rads. The prohibitions on extra vitamins/antioxidants are only during chemo and radiation, as their activity counteracts the function of chemo and radiation. If not in treatment, or only having surgery, then the supplements are helpful for healing.