Surgery Soon? First, Check Your Medicine Cabinet

Check Your Medicine Cabinet

My mother was recently diagnosed with a 7 mm breast lesion that is a ductal carcinoma. In preparing for surgery, I reviewed her medicines and dietary supplements. Mom is a very health conscience 84-year-old and she follows a wholesome diet and has an active lifestyle.

Not surprisingly, I recommended that she suspend her daily aspirin before the surgery. Next, I noted that she takes an omega-3 fish oil supplement. Since this can increase the risk of bleeding, I also had her stop this supplement prior to her surgery.

Whether or not my mother will need radiation or chemotherapy won’t be known until after her surgery. But the possibility got me thinking. Fish oils are widely used as an anti-inflammatory. In fact, according to a survey earlier this year of 10,000 supplement users, fish oil ranks as the number one most popular supplement. Clearly, lots of folks – which presumably include cancer patients – are taking this supplement.Since cancer patients read my blog, I wanted to pose a question to my blog audience: “Did you know that fish oil could reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy?”

Just last year researchers discovered that platinum-induced fatty acids (PIFAs) shield cancer tumors from chemotherapy such as Cisplatin. Cisplatin is commonly used in the treatment of solid tumor cancers such as breast and lung cancers. This means that fish oil might make cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy. While more work needs to be done with fish oil in regards to which cancers and which agents it interferes with; until then, my recommendation is to stop fish oil supplementation for the duration of cancer treatment.

If you have a question about your specific chemotherapy regimen and interference by any dietary supplement, make sure to talk with your clinical pharmacist and your physician. My mom did and we both agreed it was best to stop the fish oil until she is cancer-free. Hopefully that will be soon.

Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO BioPlus SP

Roodhart JML, Daenen LGM, Stigter ECA, et al. Mesenchymal stem cells induce resistance to chemotherapy through the release of platinum-induced fatty acids. Cancer Cell 2011;20(3):370.
2011 Survey of Vitamin and Supplement Users Report.

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