Breast Cancer Patients Take Antioxidants Despite Lack of Evidence

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Antioxidant use in breast cancer patients

Results of a new study show that many women with breast cancer take antioxidant supplements in high doses, despite lack of evidence of the benefits. The most widely consumed antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and selenium – antioxidants that might even interfere with breast cancer treatment. The research highlights the need for studies about how antioxidants affect women with breast cancer.

The study looked at 1500 women with breast cancer, taken from the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project (LIBCSP) implemented to find out how environmental influences on breast cancer in Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York State. Follow up included 764 women who consented to interviews detailing their use of antioxidants while receiving chemotherapy, radiation, and administration of the anti-estrogen drug tamoxifen for treatment of breast cancer.

The findings showed that 663 women with breast cancer reported taking antioxidants, believing they provide protection from chemotherapy side effects and prevent recurrence – 69.3 percent of breast cancer patients were found to be taking high levels of antioxidants during breast cancer treatment.


Additional adjuncts to breast cancer treatment practiced by women during chemotherapy, radiation and tamoxifen therapy included higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, herbal supplements and mind-body therapy combined with antioxidant supplements.

The study was led by Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Medical Oncology (in Medicine) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York. "Given the common use of antioxidant supplements during breast cancer treatment, often at high doses and in conjunction with other complementary therapies, future research should address the effects of antioxidant supplementation on breast cancer outcomes.”

Whether antioxidants improve breast cancer outcomes and prevent breast cancer recurrence is unknown. Many breast cancer patients take high doses of antioxidants, despite lack of evidence regarding the benefits.