Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ginseng May Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes

Date:
March 16, 2006
Source:
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Summary:
Ginseng, one of the most widely used herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, may improve survival and quality of life after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a recent study.

Ginseng, one of the most widely used herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, may improve survival and quality of life after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a recent study by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers.

Ginseng is a slow-growing perennial herb whose roots have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. The two main classes of ginseng -- red and white -- have different biological effects, according to traditional Chinese medicine theory. White, or unprocessed, ginseng is used over long periods to promote general health, vitality and longevity. Red, or processed, ginseng provides a much stronger effect and is used for short periods to aid in disease recovery.

Both varieties of ginseng contain more than 30 chemicals, called ginsenosides, which have anti-tumor effects in cell culture and animal studies, suggesting that the herbs may provide specific benefits to cancer patients. In fact, ginseng use has been increasing among cancer patients in recent years, particularly in women diagnosed with breast cancer.

However, despite the encouraging laboratory findings, scientific analysis of ginseng's health benefits in patient populations has been lacking. "There is a lot of skepticism about herbal medicine," said Shu. "That is why we are taking the observational approach at this time to see whether there is any efficacy. If so, we can go to the next phase ... and eventually go to clinical trials."

Shu and colleagues assessed the effects of ginseng use in breast cancer survivors as part of a large epidemiological study, the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study, which has followed 1,455 breast cancer patients in Shanghai since 1996. For the current study, Shu and colleagues evaluated breast cancer patients for ginseng use both before and after their diagnosis of breast cancer. All patients who used ginseng had received at least one type of conventional cancer therapy (e.g., surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy).

Information on ginseng use prior to cancer diagnosis, which was available for every subject, was used to determine whether prior ginseng use predicted survival. At follow up -- about three to four years after diagnosis -- the researchers asked about ginseng use since diagnosis. That information, which was available only for survivors, was used to look at quality of life measurements -- i.e., physical, psychological, social and material well-being.

Before diagnosis, about a quarter of patients (27.4 percent) reported using ginseng regularly. After diagnosis, that percentage jumped to 62.8 percent, the researchers found. They also found significant improvements in both survival and quality of life measures in patients who used ginseng. "When patients used ginseng prior to diagnosis, they tended to have higher survival," Shu explained. "Ginseng use after cancer diagnosis was related to improved quality of life."

The findings suggest that ginseng may provide tangible benefits to breast cancer survivors, but there are limitations to the study. The varieties and the methods of ginseng use and the use of other complementary and alternative therapies could not be fully accounted for in the analysis. Also, the quality of life measures exclusively relied on patient self-reporting.

Although side effects of ginseng use were not recorded in this study, Shu warned that the seemingly innocuous root can create problems when improperly used and should be taken with caution. "It's not a 'drug' in terms of being managed by the FDA, but it was used as a drug in traditional Chinese medicine," she said. "Any drug may have some side effects and may interact with other drugs. So, discuss with your primary care doctor before you decide to take ginseng roots or products."

Shu hopes to confirm and expand the current findings through continued collection of data in this patient population, from another ongoing study of 4,000 breast cancer patients, and eventually, in randomized clinical trials. Scientific study of complementary and alternative medicines is tricky though, said Shu. "Chinese traditional medicine is very individualized. It gives you different drugs based on your symptoms and your overall health. There is much to be learnt."

The large epidemiological study, led by Xiao-Ou Shu, M.D., Ph.D., was published online recently in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Other authors on the paper were Yong Cui, M.D., Hui Cai, M.D., Ph.D., Meng-Hua Tao, M.D., and Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., from Vanderbilt and Yu-Tang Gao, M.D., from the Shanghai Cancer Institute. The research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "Ginseng May Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060316093815.htm>.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center. (2006, March 16). Ginseng May Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060316093815.htm
Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "Ginseng May Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060316093815.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 23, 2014) The WHO has warned up to 20,000 people could be infected with Ebola over the next few weeks. As Sonia Legg reports, the implications for the West African countries suffering from the disease are huge. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within 4 Months

Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within 4 Months

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) Health officials warn that without further intervention, the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could reach 1.4 million by January. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Cases to Triple in Weeks Without Drastic Action

WHO: Ebola Cases to Triple in Weeks Without Drastic Action

AFP (Sep. 23, 2014) The number of Ebola infections will triple to 20,000 by November, soaring by thousands every week if efforts to stop the outbreak are not stepped up radically, the WHO warned in a study on Tuesday. Duration: 01:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
5 Ways Men Can Prevent Most Heart Attacks

5 Ways Men Can Prevent Most Heart Attacks

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) No surprise here: A recent study says men can reduce their risk of heart attack by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes daily exercise. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins