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July 2006

Plasma CoQ10 Levels Predict Melanoma Progression

Low levels of plasma coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) are associated with an increased risk of melanoma metastasis, or spread to other locations in the body, according to a recent study from Rome, Italy.*

The antioxidant CoQ10 is decreased in the blood of patients with various cancers, including melanoma. Because melanoma is notoriously aggressive and difficult to treat, accurate measures of prognosis are sorely needed to ensure proper therapy and monitoring. The Italian study evaluated the efficacy of CoQ10 level as a predictor of melanoma progression.

Between 1997 and 2004, investigators enrolled 117 men and women with melanoma but without metastases. The patients had an average age of 55 years; 79 had early-stage disease and 38 had late-stage disease. The control subjects were 125 volunteers without melanoma who were matched for sex, age, occupation, and place of birth. Plasma CoQ10 level was measured in each subject, and a low level was defined as less than 0.6 mg/L.

CoQ10 levels were significantly lower in patients compared to controls, as well as in patients who developed metastases compared to those who did not. After 34 months of monitoring, patients with low plasma CoQ10 levels had a significant, eightfold higher risk of metastasis than patients with higher levels. During the study, 35 of 82 patients (43%) with low CoQ10 levels developed metastases, compared to only 3 of 35 patients (9%) with higher CoQ10. Cancer progression occurred sooner in patients with low CoQ10 levels (average 47 months) than in those with higher levels (average 82 months). Of the 82 patients with low CoQ10 levels, 17 died during the study, compared to none of the 35 patients with higher CoQ10. CoQ10 levels did not vary by sex.

Levels of CoQ10 correlated well with tumor thickness, which is currently the best indicator of melanoma progression. Specifically, lower CoQ10 levels correlated with increased tumor thickness and poorer prognosis.

Because of its usefulness and simplicity, plasma CoQ10 level may become a new prognostic factor for estimating the risk of melanoma progression. Further studies are needed to determine whether CoQ10 supplementation may improve outcomes in people with melanoma.

—Laura J. Ninger, ELS


* Rusciani L, Proietti I, Rusciani A, et al. Low plasma coenzyme Q10 levels as an independent prognostic factor for melanoma progression. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006 Feb;54(2):234-41.

Sunscreens Fail to Protect Against Harmful UVA Rays

Life Extension has long warned its members that commercial sunscreens provide only limited protection against potentially lethal ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Now two of the nation’s foremost consumer law firms have filed coordinated, class-action lawsuits in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, charging that sunscreens by leading makers such as Coppertone, Banana Boat, and Hawaiian Tropic do not protect against harmful solar radiation and create a false sense of security that actually endangers sunscreen users.*

The lawsuits allege systematic fraud, false advertising, and persistently misleading claims that exaggerate the ability of sunscreens to protect against the sun and reduce the risk of cancer and other skin ailments.

As Life Extension recently warned (see “The Sunscreen Paradox,” Life Extension, June 2006), the FDA’s flawed sun protection factor (SPF) rating system designates protection against UVB rays but not UVA rays.

According to the complaint, “UVB rays have been shown to cause [sunburn], premature aging of the skin, and the development of skin cancer . . . UVA rays are also harmful and have been shown to damage the DNA in skin cells, contribute to premature aging of the skin, and cause the development of certain forms of skin cancer.” The complaint notes that “existing research indicates that the level of protection provided against UVA rays by Defendants’ sun protection products, particularly those with high SPF designations, is significantly less than the protection provided against the burning effects of UVB rays.”

The complaint goes on to state that consumers have purchased sunscreen products “under the false impression that they are receiving protection from all of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays” and that the “health costs to . . . the general public as a result of this deceptive conduct have been staggering.”

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 1.5 million skin cancer cases are diagnosed annually in the US—more than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. More than 8,000 Americans die each year from skin cancer.

The lawsuits seek an injunction on claims made by sunscreen makers on their product labels, websites, and advertising, as well as compensation for consumers and other remedies, including an industry-financed public education program on sun protection.

—Matt Sizing


* Available at: cases/sunscreen/amended_complaint.pdf. Accessed April 20, 2006.

Vitamins C and E, Ibuprofen May Prevent Alzheimer's

Daily intake of vitamins C and E along with ibuprofen significantly lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in patients at high risk for the disease, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.*

This combination particularly benefits people with a certain variant of the gene for apolipoprotein (APOE-4), which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

Using a longitudinal study design, Dr. Majid Fatuhi and his research team followed nearly 5,000 elderly residents of Cache County, Utah, for eight years. The scientists assessed the participants’ consumption of vitamin C, vitamin E, and ibuprofen, and identified 127 participants who regularly used all three agents. This group showed significantly less decline in their scores on mental performance tests.

Study participants carrying the APOE-4 genetic variant demonstrated the greatest benefits from the vitamin C, vitamin E, and ibuprofen combination. According to the researchers, this subset of individuals in their late sixties and seventies showed no decline in cognitive function over the eight-year study period. By contrast, those who took just one of these agents saw their memory deteriorate over the study period.

Dr. Fatuhi noted that for people at low risk for Alzheimer’s, taking vitamins C and E can reduce the risk of contracting the disease. For those at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s—as determined by family history or early memory loss—the combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, and ibuprofen may be a more powerful risk-reduction strategy. Vitamins C and E may help people avert Alzheimer’s by mitigating inflammation, while ibuprofen may act by reducing the amount of damaging amyloid beta protein in the brain.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


* Available at: newsArticle.jhtml?type=healthNews&storyID=11789992. Accessed April 27, 2006.

Folate, Vitamin B12 Decrease Breast Cancer Risk

Plentiful intake of folate and vitamin B12 may help prevent breast cancer, according to a recent report published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.*

A population-based, case-control study evaluated 475 hospitalized women in Mexico City who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The women ranged in age from 23 to 87, with a median age of 53 years. Each woman was interviewed to obtain a history of her typical diet and her risk factors for breast cancer. The control group consisted of 1,391 healthy women from the Mexico City area ranging in age from 18 to 82, with a median age of 49 years. The control group likewise provided data on their diet and risk factors for breast cancer.

Analyzing the data, the researchers noted that women with the highest level of folate intake demonstrated a 36% lower risk of breast cancer. Even more dramatically, women with the highest intake of vitamin B12 had a 68% decreased risk of breast cancer. The research team noted that folate’s protective effect was more pronounced in women who also consumed a high intake of vitamin B12. Furthermore, they found that the cancer-preventive benefits of folate and vitamin B12 were more dramatic in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women.

Optimizing folate and vitamin B12 intake may thus provide a safe, effective way to help prevent breast cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women. These B vitamins are also known to support good health by promoting healthy homocysteine levels.

—Christie C. Yerby, ND


* Lajous M, Lazcano-Ponce E, Hernandez-Avila M, Willett W, Romieu I. Folate, vitamin B(6), and vitamin B(12) intake and the risk of breast cancer among Mexican women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Mar;15(3):443-8.