13 Supplements to Help Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence

You just won back your health. Make sure you keep it.

July 28, 2015
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You’ve completed chemotherapy, and your oncologist has given you the "all clear." Perhaps he’s even given you our book After Cancer Care. All you need are the tools you need to reduce your chances of recurrence and take control of your life.

In an ideal world, the nutrients can be found in the whole foods we eat, and can work together symphonically with the other thousands of as-yet-undiscovered or unknown chemicals in the vegetables and fruits that help us maintain our wellness.

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However, many factors diminish such an ideal. Growing and harvesting methods, environmental toxins in the atmosphere, and poor dietary choices are among the problems that have often left us with less-than-optimal amounts of essential fats, vitamins, minerals, and the other necessary elements of micronutrients.

In addition, certain medications and some medical conditions can deplete your body's ability to absorb nutrients even from the wholesome food you eat.

For these and other reasons, it is often important to supplement your nutritional intake. Supplementation is intended to correct any deficiencies in your food or your ability to properly process that food in your body.

Multiple nutritional supplements have been associated with reduced cancer occurrence and/or cancer progression. The list below contains those with the greatest evidence base and benefit, though it is not necessary that they all be included.

Given that many nutritional interventions have the potential to both increase the effectiveness of conventional treatments and possibly interfere with their effects, combined use should always be supervised by a doctor, naturopath, or nutritionist. For example, DHEA, an adrenal hormone that can be metabolized into many other hormones including estrogen, may also interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy, particularly for estrogen receptor positive cancers. Doses higher than 50 mcg of vitamin K2 (MK-7) may interfere with some anticoagulant medications. For your reference while choosing supplements, there are 1,000 milligrams (mg) in 1 gram.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D levels are associated with both the risk of breast cancer and the risk of dying from it. The suggested dose is sufficient to raise 25-OH vitamin D levels to above 40 ng/mL and optimally between 50 and 80 ng/mL.

 

Suggested Dose: May require 5,000 IU per day or more, depending on blood levels

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, have been shown to exert numerous antiproliferative effects on breast cancer cells, as well as reduce inflammation and fatigue among breast cancer survivors. DHA and EPA have also demonstrated protective effects when combined with several chemotherapeutic agents. Additionally, GLA, another omega-3, helps to maintain balance in the fatty acids and enhances the anti-inflammatory effect.

Suggested Dose: 2 to 3 g combined EPA and DHA per day, with at least 1 to 2 g of a GLA source

Isothiocyanates and DIM (3,3'-Diindolymethane)
Isothiocyanates, which are abundant in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, have shown antitumor activity. DIM (3,3′-Diindolylmethane), a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol, one of the isothiocyanates, inhibits cancer cell proliferation in estrogen-receptor positive and negative cells. DIM also modulates estrogen metabolism, as reflected by a change in urinary estrogen metabolite profiles to those associated with lower cancer risk among cancer survivors.

Suggested Dose: DIM 250 mg, isothiocyanates 600 mcg per day

More: DDT Quadruples Breast Cancer Risk

Scutellaria Barbata
Scutellaria barbata is an herb that grows in Korea and southern China. An extract of this plant has been shown to be safe in a clinical trial of women with advanced breast cancer; it inhibits cell proliferation and induces cancer cell death.

Suggested Dose: 1 to 2 g per day

Curcumin
The active extract from the spice turmeric, curcumin displays an ability to inhibit many tumor cell types and also may sensitize cancer cells to other therapies. Recently it was combined with docetaxel, a commonly used chemotherapy medication, in patients with advanced and metastatic breast cancer with encouraging results. Doses range depending on the type of curcumin, yet Meriva and Longvida have been shown to be much more efficiently absorbed forms.

 

Suggested Dose: 1 to 2 g per day of Meriva or Longvida curcumin 

Green Tea Extract
Catechins, antioxidants that are found in green tea, particularly EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), are known to have numerous antimetastatic and antiproliferative properties. Also, clinical trials suggest EGCG may enhance other therapies.

Suggested Dose: 1 g EGCG and mixed catechins per day

Resveratrol
Found in red wine and grapes, this antioxidant has been shown to influence the methylation of genes in women at high breast cancer risk, and to reduce the toxicity of radiation therapy.

Suggested Dose: 100 to 200 mg per day

More: BPA Doesn't Just Cause Cancer; It Disrupts Treatment Too

Milk Thistle
Silymarin and silibinin from milk thistle have antiproliferative and antimetastatic properties, and may enhance the effectiveness of other therapies.

Suggested Dose: At least 500 mg silymarin per day

Quercetin
This antioxidant has multiple mechanisms by which it inhibits breast cancer proliferation and induces apoptosis (programmed cell death), and alters the metabolism of estrogen to less toxic compounds. It may be particularly beneficial for HER2/neu-positive cancer.

Suggested Dose: 200 to 400 mg, three times per day

Grape Seed Extract and/or Pycnogenol
Grape seed extract has been shown to inhibit breast cell carcinogenesis in response to several common toxins, and to inhibit the enzyme aromatase, a factor in hormone-sensitive cancers.

Suggested Dose: 100 to 200 mg per day

Melatonin
Intake of supplemental melatonin, a hormone, has improved survival in a number of cancers and may enhance conventional therapy effectiveness. In clinical trials, up to 20 mg has been used.

Suggested Dose: At least 3 mg at night, preferably time-released

More: 10 Rules to Know Before You Start Any New Supplement

Vitamin E
Suggested Dose: 200-400 IU per day of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols
Various components of vitamin E have shown anticancer properties. Although alpha-tocopherol is often used in clinical trials, when given alone it may deplete other important components of vitamin E.

Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 (MK-7) has the longest half-life, meaning it is the most stable, of all forms of vitamin K. Shown to improve bone and cardiovascular health, higher intakes of this form have also been associated with reduced cancer incidence and death, and may improve effectiveness of other therapies.

Suggested Dose: 100 mcg vitamin K2 (MK-7)

Adapted from After Cancer Care