News / Health

Antioxidants Fuel Lung Cancer in Mice

Jessica Berman
Millions of people take vitamins, minerals and herbal pills every day, hoping to stay healthy, and avoid disease. Much of that money is spent on antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, which is commonly believed to prevent or delay some types of cell damage, such as cancer. But new research suggests that taking high levels of the supplements may actually be increasing the risk by knocking out the body's natural defenses against cancer. 

Antioxidants are chemicals naturally produced by the body, or provided by fruits and vegetables, that neutralize what are known as free radicals, harmful molecules that accumulate inside cells and damage DNA.  Without antioxidants, cells turn cancerous.

But despite dozens of studies, there’s never been any evidence that taking extra antioxidants, in the form of pills, prevents cancer, said Martin Bergo, a professor of molecular medicine at the University of Gothenburg.  In fact, in an interview via Skype, he said excessive doses of the supplements could be harmful.

“But this thing is deeply rooted in the belief of people because [of] these free radicals that form inside the cells,” he said.

Bergo said dozens of studies have shown little or no benefit from taking antioxidants.  He said other trials had to be halted because researchers observed an increased cancer risk.

An article in the journal Science Translational Medicine described how two research teams, one led by Bergo and another overseen by cancer researcher Par Lindahl, discovered by accident that high doses of two antioxidants - vitamin E and NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) - fueled lung cancer in mice.

Lindahl, also of the University of Gothenburg, said researchers were looking at how a particular protein that binds to DNA might contribute to lung cancer.

In a Skype interview, Lindahl said all of the mice in the study had small lung tumors. To create a control group, the researchers gave some of the rodents antioxidants, expecting that to limit their tumor growth.

“And it turns out that mice that were treated with extra antioxidants, they developed larger tumors compared to untreated mice.  The tumors looked more aggressive, and the mice died twice as fast as the untreated mice," said Lindahl.

Researchers found high antioxidant levels reduced the activity of P-53, a protein that normally limits cell damage and prevents cancer. While more studies are needed before any recommendations for humans can be made, the researchers suggest that people with small, undiagnosed lung tumors could potentially fuel cancer by taking antioxidant supplements. 

A spokesman for the American Cancer Society called the study’s results “intriguing” but agreed it is too early to draw any conclusions.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More