People with cancer want to do everything they can to combat the disease, manage its symptoms, and cope with the side effects of treatment. Many turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices. Some studies suggest that CAM treatments can help for management of symptoms for chemotherapy-related nausea, fatigue, pain, and other symptoms. If you are considering using CAM, be sure to talk to your health care providers to ensure safe and coordinated care.
People with cancer may use CAM to:
- Help cope with the side effects of cancer treatments, such as nausea, pain, and fatigue;
- Comfort themselves and ease the worries of cancer treatment and related stress;
- Feel that they are doing something more to help with their own care;
- Try to treat or cure their cancer.
Selected Publications by NCCAM Grantees
NCCAM has funded many basic and clinical studies related to breast cancer. These articles are examples of the breadth of research the Center supports. To find more articles by NCCAM grantees, search PubMed®.
- Acupuncture and Cancer
- Diet and Cancer Prevention: Contributions from the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study
- Non-hormonal Interventions for Hot Flushes in Women With a History of Breast Cancer
- Pineapple Bromelain Induces Autophagy, Facilitating Apoptotic Response in Mammary Carcinoma Cells
- Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Patients During Chemotherapy and Concurrent Therapy With a Mistletoe Extract
- Randomized Clinical Trial of Chinese Herbal Medications to Reduce Wound Complications After Mastectomy for Breast Carcinoma
Fish Oil Linked to Reduction in Breast Cancer Risk
Dietary supplements are a booming business—Americans are spending approximately $25 billion a year to supplement their diets with products containing vitamins, herbs, and botanicals, as well as other supplements such as glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils. A variety of studies have shown essential fatty acids to be beneficial; the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—are especially good. Fish oil has previously been reported to reduce heart disease risk, making its implications in cancer prevention an area of interest. Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center recently evaluated what, if any, impact specialty supplements have on breast cancer risk.
In this study, more than 35,000 postmenopausal women completed a 24-page questionnaire to evaluate their use of non-vitamin, non-mineral “specialty” supplements. The women in this study did not have a history of breast cancer and did not have breast cancer when they enrolled in the study. During six years of follow-up, 880 study participants developed breast cancer. Of the specialty supplements used by the women in this study, only fish oil was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Risk of breast cancer was 32% lower among women who regularly used fish oil supplements.
The results of this study will need to be confirmed by additional studies. The researchers note: “Fish oil is a potential candidate for chemoprevention studies. Until that time, it is not recommended for individual use for breast cancer prevention.” Because the full range of effects of many dietary supplements is not well understood, patients should talk with their doctor about any dietary supplements that they are using or considering.
Mediterranean Diet May Lower Breast Cancer Risk
– From the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Postmenopausal women who consume a traditional Mediterranean diet may have a lower risk for breast cancer, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
A traditional Mediterranean diet—one that is rich in fish, olive oil, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes and lower in red meat and dairy—has been associated with a lower rate of heart disease and cancer, including breast cancer. This recent study was the first to evaluate the purported benefits of the Mediterranean diet within a Mediterranean country—in this case, Greece.
Researchers followed approximately 15,000 women in Greece for almost 10 years. Participants’ diets were assessed by questionnaire, and a score ranging from 0 to 9 was given based on the extent to which the women followed a traditional Mediterranean diet. A higher score indicated greater adherence to the diet. During this time, 240 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Postmenopausal women with greater adherence to the diet (a score between 6 and 9) had a reduced risk of breast cancer of 22%.
- Among premenopausal women, greater adherence to the diet was not associated with a lower risk for breast cancer.
The researchers concluded postmenopausal women who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet may have a decreased risk of breast cancer. There is a lower incidence of breast cancer in Mediterranean countries, which may be partially explained by the traditional diet.
Reference: Trichopoulou A, Bamia C, Lagiou P, et al. Conformity to traditional Mediterranean diet and breast cancer risk in the Greek EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition) cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29619.