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Antioxidant Use Common in Breast Cancer

Supplements are often used at high doses and combined with complementary therapies

TUESDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- Antioxidant use, often at high doses and combined with other treatments, is common among women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, according to a study published online June 8 in Cancer.

Heather Greenlee, N.D., from Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues surveyed self-reported antioxidant supplement use (vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, or selenium in individual supplements or multivitamins) during breast cancer treatment among 764 women.

The researchers found that 663 women received adjuvant treatment and 401 of these reported using antioxidants during treatment. Antioxidants were taken by 38.7 percent of women undergoing chemotherapy, 42.2 percent of women undergoing radiotherapy, and 61.9 percent of women receiving tamoxifen. Of the women taking antioxidants, 69.3 percent were taking doses higher than that present in a typical multivitamin. The authors further note that women were more likely to take antioxidants during treatment if they ate more fruits and vegetables at diagnosis (relative risk, 1.71), received tamoxifen (relative risk, 3.66), ever used herbal products (relative risk, 3.49), and ever engaged in mind-body practices (relative risk, 1.72).

"In summary, we observed that the majority of breast cancer patients in Long Island, many of whom were of high socioeconomic status, used antioxidants during treatment," Greenlee and colleagues write. "We believe that oncologists should discuss supplement use and dosing with their patients."

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