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Chiropractic Research Review

Ginseng Improves Survival Rates, Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Patients

Ginseng has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Cell-culture and animal studies of ginseng have shown that the herb contains more than 30 different chemicals, called ginsenosides, which have demonstrated anti-tumor properties, suggesting that regular ginseng may provide specific benefits to cancer patients.

Despite these findings, detailed analyses of ginsengs benefits on cancerous tumors in humans have yet to be conducted on a large scale.

In a recent cohort study, 1,455 women were surveyed for ginseng use both before and after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Information on ginseng use before cancer diagnosis was collected at baseline recruitment to predict survival. At followup (approximately 3 to 4 years after diagnosis), the women were again surveyed about ginseng use and its relationship to the patients' quality of life. All patients who used ginseng had received at least one type of conventional cancer therapy, such as surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation.

"Compared with patients who never used ginseng, regular consumers had a significantly decreased risk of death; adjusted hazard ratios associated with ginseng use were 0.71 for total mortality and 0.70 for disease-specific mortality/recurrence," the survey authors wrote. "Ginseng use after cancer diagnosis, particularly current use, was positively associated with quality of life scores, with the strongest effect in the psychological and social well-being domains. Additionally, quality of life improved as cumulative ginseng use increased."

While the survey did not provide a definitive link between ginseng use and increased chances of breast cancer survival, the researchers suggested that, based on the results of the survey, future clinical trials investigate the use of ginseng along with conventional breast cancer treatments. However, they cautioned that women with breast cancer should speak with a qualified health care provider before using ginseng products on their own, due to potential side-effects or herb-drug interactions.

Cui Y, Shu X-O, Gao YT, et al. Association of ginseng use with survival and quality of life among breast cancer patients. American Journal of Epidemiology 2006;163(7):645-653.

Chiropractic Research Review

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