Most Wanted Supplements:
Are They Cancer Killers or Frauds? What You Need to Know, con't.
Lycopene is a plant chemical
called a carotenoid. Research has shown that
lycopene in food appears to reduce prostate
cancer risk; however, this remains controversial.
Verdict: Once again, we don't know
how lycopene works in the body -- or
whether it's working alone -- to reduce cancer
Consider this: Researchers noted that
foods rich in beta-carotene -- a cousin to
lycopene -- seemed to reduce lung cancer risk
in smokers. But when beta-carotene supplements
were tested by smokers as a preventive,
cancer risk increased.
Leave lycopene supplements alone.
Instead, eat more tomato sauce, low-sodium
tomato juice, watermelon, guava, rose hips
and pink grapefruit.
Melatonin is a hormone found
in the body. Doctors sometimes prescribe
a synthetic form of it to supplement cancer
treatment or ward off side effects. Melatonin
also is used to treat insomnia. Research is
under way to determine whether melatonin
helps boost the immune system.
Verdict: If you are having problems
sleeping, it might be worth talking to your
doctor about melatonin. However, do not
take this supplement -- or any other -- without
consulting your doctor first.
supplements may contain contaminants.
Melatonin is known to interact with certain
medications -- including blood pressure
drugs -- and may worsen depression.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol
known to act as an antioxidant, an antiinflammatory
and a weak plant estrogen.
These properties may help it to prevent
cellular damage known to trigger cancer, but
its ability to slow the growth of cancer cells
has only been shown in early laboratory testing.
Verdict:Resveratrol is found in grape
skins, so eat more red and purple grapes. It's
too soon to know how resveratrol works or
whether resveratrol supplements are safe, so
don't take resveratrol pills -- or uncork the
red wine. While it's true that resveratrol is
found in wine, it's also true that alcohol consumption
is associated with increased cancer
risk. Resveratrol may have an estrogenic
effect, so women with hormone-sensitive
conditions, in particular, should avoid
Selenium is a mineral found
in poultry, fish, wheat and liver. It was once
thought to be potentially beneficial in preventing
cancer. However, several studies have
shown that it is not only ineffective, but also
Verdict: Don't take it.
Studies have shown it does not prevent skin, lung, prostate, stomach and esophageal cancer.
Furthermore, research conflicts as to whether it may increase risk for a type of skin cancer
called squamous cell carcinoma. Last year, a trial examining vitamin E and selenium for
prostate cancer prevention was halted after researchers noted a small increase in diabetes
among men who took selenium.
return to top of page