Take Caution with Supplements

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Take Caution with Supplements

These pills can do more harm than good during cancer treatment

After diagnosis, your No. 1 goal is to beat cancer. Go ahead and start exercising and eating healthier, but think twice before taking supplements, advises Lily Lai, M.D., surgeon and clinical associate professor at City of Hope.

“During active cancer treatment, patients should not be taking any supplements,” emphasizes Lai.

Since supplements aren’t regulated and manufacturers aren’t required to list the ingredients on the labels, it’s impossible to know if a supplement will affect cancer treatment or cause drug interactions.

Lai offers insights on a few supplements that must be avoided:

ANTIOXIDANTS: Chemo drugs and radiation kill cancer cells. Taking antioxidants such as high-dose vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A and selenium could counteract these effects and might make it harder to kill cancer cells.

GINGKO AND GINSENG: These herbal supplements may be associated with bleeding. If a cancer patient needs surgery, taking gingko or ginseng could increase risk of bleeding during the operation.

ST. JOHN’S WORT: St. John’s wort has been shown to increase activity in the liver enzymes that metabolize prescription drugs, including those used during cancer treatment. Taking the supplement could interfere with the body’s ability to process the drugs and interfere with treatment.

— Jodi Helmer

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