Do Antioxidants Cause Malignant Melanoma to Metastasize

Logos 005A new study published in Science Translation Medicine concluded that antioxidants can double the rate of melanoma metastasis in mice and reinforces previous research that antioxidants hasten the progression of lung cancer.  Researchers further said that those with cancer or the high risk of cancer should avoid   nutritional supplements that contain antioxidants. Because it was known that free radicals can cause cancer, the research community assumed that antioxidants that destroy them, provided protection against cancer. As a result many nutritional supplements included antioxidants as a cancer prevention.

Now research shows this not to be true. The current study on melanoma, the worst type of skin cancer, found that antioxidants doubled the rate of metastasis in malignant melanoma and as opposed to the lung cancer study the primary melanoma tumor was not affected. Researchers said “We have demonstrated that antioxidants promote the progression of cancer in at least two different ways.” They protect healthy cells from free radicals that can turn into malignancies but may also protect a tumor once it has developed. Thus, taking nutritional supplements containing antioxidants may unintentionally hasten the progression of a small tumor or premalignant tumor, neither of which is possible to detect. Thus, they say those recently diagnosed with cancer should avoid antioxidant nutritional supplements.

The role of antioxidants is particularily relevant with patients who have melanoma because melanoma cancer cells are know to be sensitive to free radicals and alsoi because the cells can be exposed to antioxidants by non-dietary means . “Skin and suntan lotions sometimes contain beta carotine or vitamin E, both of which could potentially affect malignant melanoma cells in the same way as antioxidants in nutritional supplements.”  The role of lotions on cancer and the effect of antioxidants on cancer are ongoing in research by this orgainzation.

NB:It is interesting that research published April 9, 2014 on this site concluded that vitamin A (beta carotine) prevented normal cells from reverting to cancer cells.

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