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Alternative Medicine: Can Coenzyme Q10 Help in Cancer Treatment?

separator If you’re looking into supplements that might help in your cancer recovery, you may want to investigate a compound called Coenzyme Q10. This compound is made naturally in your body. The cells use it to produce the energy they need for growth. Coenzyme Q10 is also an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells from chemicals called free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells, including DNA. Some researchers believe that this damage plays a role in the development of cancer. There have been some studies indicating that Coenzyme Q10 stimulates the immune system and helps your body resist disease.

Coenzyme Q10 was first thought of as a possible treatment for cancer in 1961, when low levels of the enzyme were noted in the blood of cancer patients. Low levels of Coenzyme Q10 have been found in people who have lymphoma, myeloma and cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, pancreas, colon, kidney, head and neck.

Only small studies have been done
As with many products that are considered “alternative” or “complementary,” there haven’t been any large, randomized (when participants get either the actual medication or a placebo, and they don’t know which they’re receiving) trials of Coenzyme Q10.

Animal studies of Coenzyme Q10 have shown that it protected the hearts of animals that were given the anticancer drug doxorubicin, which has been known to damage the heart muscle. After that study, researchers conducted a small randomized trial on 20 patients who were receiving doxorubicin. Results indicated that Coenzyme Q10 decreased heart damage in these patients. But no medical journals have published any results of a randomized trial determining the effects of Coenzyme Q10 as a treatment for cancer.

There have been small studies on patients who have received Coenzyme Q10 along with traditional cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation, and other supplements. Some of these patients have had remissions, even though their cancers had spread to other organs. But since they were also taking additional supplements, it’s impossible to prove whether Coenzyme Q10 played a role or not.

Use as “adjuvant” treatment only
Adjuvant treatment is one that you would use following your traditional therapy—chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, etc. We do not remotely suggest that Coenzyme Q10 should replace any of your recommended cancer therapy. But some research has suggested that after your therapy is over, Coenzyme Q10 may be something that could help your immune system to function as well as possible.

Most people take Coenzyme Q10 in pill form, although it’s also possible to take it by injection.

No serious side effects reported
There haven’t been any serious side effects reported from people taking Coenzyme Q10. Side effects that have been reported include

  • Mild difficulty sleeping
  • Elevated levels of liver enzymes, but no liver toxicity
  • Rashes
  • Nausea
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Fatigue

Take Coenzyme Q10 only after talking with your doctor
Coenzyme Q10 can interact with other medications, so it’s important to talk with your doctor before you give this supplement a try. Some of the medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol may reduce the effects of Coenzyme Q10. Additionally, Coenzyme Q10 could change the way your body responds to warfarin, a drug that prevents the blood from clotting. And Coenzyme Q10 may also increase the effectiveness of insulin, so if you take insulin and Coenzyme Q10, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar for any changes in the way your body would normally respond.

The National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health
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