You may have heard that taking antioxidants while undergoing chemo and radiation will harm your survival. So the majority of oncologists claim. It’s all cut and dried; there is scientific “proof” (they say).

Rot.

Let me tell you what all this is based on.

A major study entitled "Beta-Carotene and Alpha-Tocopherol Chemoprevention of Second Primary Malignancies in Head and Neck Cancer Patients", was published in 2005, which started the row. It was bad science, which is why it got off on the wrong foot. The lead author was Isabelle Bairati. The study was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) and took place at Laval University in Quebec.

Bairati and her team purportedly found that antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin E did indeed reduce the unpleasant side effects of chemo and radiation treatment—but at a price: it seemed that the supplements reduced the effectiveness of the treatment. Survival times were reduced, they said.

Well the nutriphobic oncologists jumped on this and widely trumpeted that all supplements, in all conditions, with all treatments were BAD.

This is not what the study actually showed but their hooting response was inevitable.

However—it didn’t stop there. The Bairati team (who I infer were not in any way incompetent) actually corrected their position in 2008, with a second paper entitled "Should Supplemental Antioxidant Administration Be Avoided During Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy?" (Journal of the National Cancer Institute (June 4, 2008).

In this more recent paper, they said the earlier findings were mistaken and all the fuss was really about a tiny sub-group of people who had lung cancer and didn’t stop smoking while they had radiation treatment. Take them out of the equation, recalculate the statistics, and—presto!-suddenly antioxidants are GOOD. Not only did they reduce the terrible side effects but they actually extended survival times.

But there was more even than this. It seems that the “failed” beta-carotene was really synthetic stuff and if blood levels of DIETARY beta-carotene* were used as a measure, then it was definitely beneficial.

Participants who had the highest dietary intake of beta carotene had a 39% reduction in severe adverse effects (which was statistically significant). There was a similar trend with vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) but not statistically significant.
More excitingly, participants with highest plasma beta-carotene had an incredible 33% percent reduction in the cancer recurrence rate. That’s WAY beyond what chemo and radiation can achieve.

You see how facts get massaged or screwed around, in what the public are gulled into believing is firm, fixed, “true” science?
It started out as antioxidants will kill you (which oncologists still put about) and the real story is that antioxidants will save your life and reduce the misery of what the oncologists do to you.

Phew!

My own take on this, by the way:

I wouldn’t dream of using any of the tocopherols or beat-carotene as significant antioxidants. I expect the patients to get them from a decent diet and juicing.

I have always used vitamin C in large doses (because it definitely kills cancer cells, selectively, at blood concentrations of over 3%) and glutathione. In addition DMSO and hydrazine sulfate have significant antioxidant effects. I give all these four agents these intravenously.
None of my patients who had opted for chemo even lost their hair!

*Carotenes are found extensively in colored foods, notably the orange ones (carrots, cantaloupe, capsicums, sweet potato). But also in green leaf vegetables, such as spinach, chard, broccoli and chard.

For more on cancer alternatives, read my other writings here.