Antioxidants reduce radiation injuries
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS. Chronic radiation proctitis (inflammation of the rectum) is
a common side effect of radiation therapy in prostate cancer, cervical cancer,
and other gynecological malignancies. The main symptoms are rectal bleeding and
pain, diarrhea, and fecal urgency.
Researchers at the St. Luke's Medical Center now report that supplementation
with vitamin-C and vitamin-E can markedly reduce the symptoms of radiation
proctitis. Their study involved 20 patients half of whom had been treated for
prostate cancer and half of whom had been treated for gynecological
malignancies. None of the patients had responded to standard drug therapy. All
patients were given 400 IU of vitamin E and 500 mg of vitamin C three times
daily. Their symptoms were evaluated before the start of supplementation and
after four weeks. The researchers noted remarkable improvements. Rectal
bleeding had stopped in 36 per cent of all patients having this symptom.
Diarrhea diminished in all patients and completely disappeared in 50 per cent of
them. Only six patients had reported rectal pain and in two of these it
completely disappeared after antioxidant supplementation. The mean symptom
score for fecal urgency also decreased very significantly (from 6 to 3). The
overall lifestyle of the patients also improved markedly with 35 per cent being
able to return to their normal lifestyle.
The researchers conclude that supplementation with vitamins C and E is an
effective therapy for chronic radiation proctitis and may be a first line of
treatment. They urge that their pilot study be confirmed through a major
double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Kennedy, Marc, et al. Successful and sustained treatment of chronic radiation
proctitis with antioxidant vitamins E and C. American Journal of
Gastroenterology, Vol. 96, April 2001, pp. 1080-84