Vitamins and Cancer

Are Vitamin Supplements a Bad Idea for Cancer Patients?

Millions of U.S. cancer survivors take vitamin supplements. However, there is little evidence that supplements help, and worries that some may actually fuel the disease.

A review of 32 studies conducted between 1999 and 2006 found that 64 percent to 81 percent of cancer survivors take extra vitamins or minerals (excluding multivitamins). But little is known about how megadoses of vitamins affect cancer.

A 1995 report showed that cancer cells in a petri dish thrive in the presence of vitamin C, and subsequent studies have suggested that vitamin C supplements may lower survival rates. A study of vitamin E showed patients with cancers of the head and neck who took supplements increased their risk for developing a second cancer.

The American Cancer Society says use of vitamins and supplements during cancer treatments should be avoided.

Dr. Mercola Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Cancer treatments are not what I typically focus on, for a variety of reasons. I also do not focus on recommendations for specific supplements, for the simple fact that the vast majority of supplements on the market are synthetic versions that can do more harm than good.

It’s important to keep in mind that there is a major difference between natural whole-food supplements and pharmaceutical grade, synthetic vitamins and minerals.

That said, there’s little doubt in my mind that most studies trying to scare you into thinking that taking vitamins and mineral supplements will kill you faster than any drug will, is based on the use of synthetic supplements, in combination with strong financial interests. Conventional cancer treatment represents a multi-billion dollar a year industry. These vast profits are fiercely protected by the industry giants, and it’s already been proven, over and over again, that financial ties can radically color the outcome of any study.

But conventional cancer treatments in no way address the underlying causes of cancer.

Cancer is a nutritional/toxic/environmental/emotional condition, which, in a great number of instances, can be successfully reversed through the application of a sound nutritional approach and common-sense lifestyle changes.

Chemotherapy -- the LEAST Successful Cancer Treatment?

According to the National Cancer Institute (a component of the National Institutes of Health, and funded by the U.S. Congress), about 500,000 people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year. Many people are also unaware that cancer -- NOT heart disease -- is the number one risk of death for most everyone reading this article.

Chemotherapy, which has been one of the principal treatment methods for the past 50 years, works by killing all cells -- throughout your body -- that multiply and divide rapidly. This would include cancer cells, but also other rapidly multiplying and dividing cells, such as:

  • Bone marrow, which produces blood
  • Digestive system
  • Reproductive system
  • Hair follicles

This overkill approach is the cause of the astounding overall failure of chemotherapy.

In 2004, the Journal of Clinical Oncology published a revealing study about chemotherapy’s success rates when looking at how many cancer patients were still alive after 5 years. It states:

RESULTS: The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.

: As the 5-year relative survival rate for cancer in Australia is now over 60%, it is clear that cytotoxic chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival. To justify the continued funding and availability of drugs used in cytotoxic chemotherapy, a rigorous evaluation of the cost-effectiveness and impact on quality of life is urgently required.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find anything still being touted as your best shot at a cure with an average success rate of just over 2 percent, if it wasn’t for the fact that big profits were driving the recommendation.

The heartbreaking reality is that chemotherapy and other conventional cancer therapies rarely work, and some drug treatments also promote the spread of cancer. But somehow the rationale to “avoid these agents because they might promote the disease” does not apply when it comes to drugs.

This is a pervasive and hard to change double standard, visible again in the CA – A Cancer Journal for the Clinician listed above, which concludes by stating:

“Pending the publication of suitable trials, clinicians must be guided by existing data in the context of a fundamental principle of medicine, "Primum non nocere." (First do no harm)

And yet, conventional cancer treatments can in no way, shape or form ever be considered harmless.

" a chemist trained to interpret data, it is incomprehensible to me that physicians can ignore the clear evidence that chemotherapy does much, much more harm than good."
Alan C Nixon, PhD, former president of the American Chemical Society

Taking a Look at Definitions and Exceptions

Dr. Ralph Moss, author of the book, Questioning Chemotherapy, has documented the ineffectiveness of chemotherapy in treating most cancers. There are a few, rare exceptions, however, where the treatment can be of value, including:

  • Acute Iymphocytic leukemia
  • Hodgkin's disease
  • Nonseminomatous testicular cancer
  • Choriocarcinoma
  • Retinoblastoma

These types of cancer account for 2 to 4 percent of all cancers occurring in the United States. This leaves some 96 to 98 percent of other cancers, such as breast, colon, and lung cancer, which are barely touched by chemotherapy. In many cases “life extension” equates to just another 6 to 18 months of life.

Effective cancer treatment is also a matter of definition. The FDA defines an "effective" drug as one that achieves a 50 percent or more reduction in tumor size for 28 days. In the vast majority of cases there is absolutely no correlation between shrinking tumors for 28 days and the cure of the cancer or extension of life.

However, when the cancer patient hears the doctor say "effective," he or she thinks, and logically so, that "effective" means it has a good possibility of curing them.

But all it means is temporary tumor shrinkage.

What Else Do We Know About Supplements For Cancer?

Needless to say, there are a variety of supplements that have received favorable press, based on positive study results. Most, however -- and this may be key -- are found to be preventative, more so than curative in nature.

Black cohosh and CoQ10 are two supplements that have been found to have potential in the treatment of cancer. Other supplements have been shown to be helpful in reducing your risk of contracting a variety of different cancers, including:

The one supplement that appears to have the most overwhelming support for both reducing your risk, and aiding in your treatment of cancer, however, is vitamin D from sunlight.