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Safety Concerns Raised for Antioxidant Use in Melanoma

Mouse study highlights link between N-acetylcysteine and melanoma progression

THURSDAY, Oct. 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The antioxidant N-acetylcysteine appears to accelerate the spread of skin cancer in mice, raising questions about its safety in humans, according to research published in the Oct. 7 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

The antioxidant had no effect on the number and size of tumors, but it enhanced the migration and invasion of these tumors to other parts of the body. N-acetylcysteine was linked to a doubling of the number of lymph-node tumors in mice, compared to untreated animals.

The researchers also performed follow-up lab tests on human melanoma cells, using N-acetylcysteine and vitamin E. Both antioxidants produced similar results in the human skin cancer cells, increasing their ability to migrate and invade other cells.

"For a patient with newly diagnosed lung cancer or melanoma -- and potentially other cancer forms -- antioxidants could speed up the progression of the disease," study author Martin Bergo, Ph.D., of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, told HealthDay. "There is no conclusive evidence that antioxidant supplementation would be beneficial for these patients, and they should be encouraged to avoid this strategy because the risk of worsening the disease is high."

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