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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are antioxidants, and what do they have to do with cancer?

    There is a lot of information out there about antioxidants. Do they decrease or can they decrease cancer?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Bowel Cancer Australia is the leading community-funded charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and care for everyone affected by bowel cancer. We … View Profile

    Thank you for your question about antioxidants and bowel cancer.

    For further information on Diet & Nutrition and bowel cancer please visit the Be Aware: Prevention page on the Bowel Cancer Australia website.

    Kind Regards,
    The team at Bowel Cancer Australia
    www.bowelcanceraustralia.org

    Please Note: The information provided by Bowel Cancer Australia’s Nurse and Nutritionist Advisory Services is intended for Australian residents as a reference guide only.  It is not a substitute for independent professional advice and is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or disorder.
     
    If you believe your symptoms are consistent with those of bowel cancer or a digestive illness, please consult your doctor.
     
    Bowel Cancer Australia, its directors, officers or medical professionals shall not be liable to any person, company or any other body for any loss, direct or indirect or consequential on whatsoever account for any omission or negligent misstatement.

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    Thanks

    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    Anti-oxidants (examples include alpha-carotene, Vitamins C and E, selenium) are compounds which can neutralise chemicals called (generically) free radicals. Free radicals are produced in various normal metabolic processes and can cause mutations (damage DNA) .
     
    DNA damage is a risk factor for cancer so, *in theory* that sounds like anti-oxidant supplements might be protective against cancer.

    But, the results of many clinical trials (involving about 300000 subjects), summarised in a Cochrane meta-analysis, show that dietary anti-oxidant supplements are *not* protective, rather they may make things worse.

    Its summary was:

    "The INCREASED risk of mortality was associated with beta-carotene and possibly vitamin E and vitamin A, but was not associated with the use of vitamin C or selenium. The current evidence does NOT support the use of antioxidant supplements in the general population or in patients with various diseases."

    (The capitals are mine.)


    See:

    http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD007176/antioxidant-supplements-for-prevention-of-mortality-in-healthy-participants-and-patients-with-various-diseases

     

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    Leading Melbourne Accredited Practising Dietitian -Mark Surdut APD AN. Mark runs a practise in North Caulfield with expertise in Medical Nutrition Therapy. Mark has a … View Profile

    this Q is easier to A, if you provide some more specifics. Its a complex area and the prevention and managment are two very differenrt areas. I believe there is some benefit in ingesting more antioxidants in the prevention of many cancers (that cannot be measured at this point), however we also know that if someone is being treated with chemotherapy, that antioxidant supplementation can interfere with the helpful chemo agents and is best avoided…so… MS

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