Reduced coenzyme Q10 levels associated with increased breast cancer risk
An article published online on April 5, 2011 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention reveals an association between decreased levels of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and a greater risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Coenzyme Q10 is a compound made in the human body that has been linked with numerous benefits, yet research suggests that many people produce amounts that are less than optimal.
The current investigation involved participants in The Shanghai Women’s Health Study of women between the ages of 40 and 70. Robert V. Cooney at the University of Hawaii and his colleagues matched 340 women with breast cancer to 653 subjects who were free of the disease. Plasma samples were analyzed for coenzyme Q10 and tocopherols.
Higher coenzyme Q10 levels were correlated with plasma alpha and gamma tocopherol levels. After excluding breast cancer patients diagnosed within a year of blood draw, a significant relationship was observed between declining plasma coenzyme Q10 levels and increased breast cancer risk. There was a 90 percent greater risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer among those whose levels were among the lowest one-fifth of participants compared to those whose levels were among the third fifth, yet further increases in coQ10 were not associated with greater benefit.
The findings of the current study contrast with those of one investigation of postmenopausal women (the Multiethnic Cohort) which found an association between higher CoQ10 levels and breast cancer risk, yet are in agreement with others which have uncovered reduced coenzyme Q10 levels in patients with breast cancer, myeloma, cervical cancer and melanoma. "The current Shanghai Women's Health Study, with relatively larger sample size and longer follow-up time suggests an inverse association for plasma CoQ10 levels with breast cancer risk in Chinese women," the authors write. They add that future intervention studies to assess the effects of supplementation with CoQ10 will be necessary to identify a cause and effect relationship.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is synthesized in humans from tyrosine through a cascade of eight aromatic precursors. These precursors require eight vitamins, which are vitamin C, B2, B3 (niacin) B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid, and tetrahydrobiopterin as their coenzymes.
Since the 1960s, studies have shown that cancer patients often have decreased blood levels of coenzyme Q10 (Lockwood et al. 1995; Folkers 1996; Ren et al. 1997). In particular, breast cancer patients (with infiltrative ductal carcinoma) who underwent radical mastectomy were found to have significantly decreased tumor concentrations of CoQ10 compared to levels in normal surrounding tissues. Increased levels of reactive oxygen species may be involved in the consumption of CoQ10 (Portakal et al. 2000). These findings sparked interest in the compound as a potential anticancer agent (NCCAM 2002). Cellular and animal studies have found evidence that CoQ10 stimulates the immune system and can increase resistance to illness (Bliznakov et al. 1970; Hogenauer et al. 1981; NCCAM 2002).
CoQ10 may induce protective effect on breast tissue and has demonstrated promise in treating breast cancer. Although there are only a few studies, the safe nature of CoQ10 coupled with this promising research of its bioenergetic activity suggests that breast cancer patients should take 100 mg up to 3 times a day. It is important to take CoQ10 with some kind of oil, such as fish or flax, because dry powder CoQ10 is not readily absorbed.
In a clinical study, 32 patients were treated with CoQ10 (90 mg) in addition to other antioxidants and fatty acids; six of these patients showed partial tumor regression. In one of these cases the dose of CoQ10 was increased to 390 mg and within one month the tumor was no longer palpable, within two months the mammography confirmed the absence of tumor. In another case, the patient took 300 mg of CoQ10 for residual tumor (post non-radical surgery) and within 3 months there was nonresidual tumor tissue (Lockwood et al. 1994). This overt complete regression of breast tumors in the latter two cases coupled with further reports of disappearance of breast cancer metastases (liver and elsewhere) in several other case (Lockwood et al. 1995) demonstrates the potential of CoQ10 in the adjuvant therapy of breast cancer.
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