Are You Sure That’s Good For You? Pros and Cons of 10 Common Breast Cancer Supplements

4. Selenium

The Pros
We only need very small amounts of selenium to maintain good health. The RDA for selenium is 55 micrograms (much smaller than the amounts of iron and calcium we need, which are measured in milligrams). Selenium is an antioxidant and may reduce risk of prostate, colon, gastrointestinal, lung, and breast cancer.

The Cons
More than 1,000 micrograms of selenium a day could cause upset stomach, muscle weakness, fatigue, and even peripheral neuropathy (numbness in hands or feet). There are also concerns about selenium supplements contributing to the risk of high-grade prostate cancer and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Getting selenium from food sources instead of supplements is best. Good food sources for selenium are poultry, fish, wheat, liver, and Brazil nuts.

5. Turmeric/Curcumin

The Pros
Turmeric is a spice ground from the roots of a plant grown in Asia and Central America, and it’s a key ingredient in curry. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which has been used to treat pain and inflammation in some cultures for hundreds of years.

In addition to providing color and flavor, the curcumin in turmeric may help prevent type 2 diabetes, and curcumin is a documented anti-inflammatory that may help reduce joint pain. Some claim curcumin can be used to ease skin inflammation, inflammatory bowel diseases, gum disease, stomach ulcers, and arthritis, but the evidence is not yet completely clear.

The Cons
Curcumin supplementation appears to be safe in reasonable amounts, but it can interact with other medications, so talk to your care team before taking it. Curcumin should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and because it may lower blood sugar and have a blood thinning effect, it should be discontinued at least two weeks prior to surgery.

Since curcumin can negatively effect the absorption of iron, those with cancer-related anemia should be especially careful.

6. Vitamin E

The Pros
Vitamin E may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer and treat the symptoms of menopause associated with breast cancer. In oil or cream form, Vitamin E can reduce radiation-related skin irritation. According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin E may delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Cons
Oral supplementation of vitamin E may increase the risk of prostate cancer, stroke, and death in those with a history of severe heart disease. Those with vitamin K deficiency, eye conditions, bleeding disorders, heart conditions, cancer, liver disease, and diabetes should definitely consult their doctor before taking vitamin E.

Side effects from oral vitamin E are rare and may include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, headache, blurred vision, and gonadal dysfunction. At high doses, vitamin E may increase the risk of death for those who are already in poor health.

7. Fish Oil

The Pros
Fish oil has been praised for its omega-3 fatty acids, which can only be obtained from the food we eat. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout, some shellfish, and some nuts and seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s also available in supplement form.

Fish oil is used to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, treat high blood pressure, and relieve the symptoms of arthritis. It also reduces inflammation and may decrease cancer risk.

The Cons
More than 3 grams a day of omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding, and cause stomach upset and/or low blood pressure. There is also a risk of fish-breath and a bad aftertaste. But omega-3’s consumed from food rarely cause these side effects (except, perhaps, for fish-breath).

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Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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