Antioxidants vs antitumourals
Every person who discovers they have cancer, or that a loved one suffers from it, launches a search for alternatives that may be effective in treating the disease. They may even be able to alleviate the adverse effects of the options proposed by doctors, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
It is common for patients and their relatives to tell us that they are using various substances that claim to be anti-tumour but are in fact antioxidants. Below we explain in detail what the difference is between them.
They can be defined as: any molecule capable of preventing or slowing down the oxidation of other molecules. They are used by the body to eliminate excess free radicals. Free radicals, when interacting with other molecules in the body, oxidise them, which can lead to various alterations in the function of these molecules, most significantly in the case of alterations in DNA, for example.
There is now talk that antioxidants, when consumed in food form, have the potential to reduce the development of cardiovascular, tumour and neuro-degenerative diseases. It is not established, however, that the use of antioxidants can reverse the process of tumour formation once it has arisen in the body.
Free radicals are highly reactive chemical substances that introduce oxygen into cells, causing oxidation of their parts, alterations in DNA, and leading to changes that accelerate the ageing of the body. The body generates radicals for its own use (controlling muscle tone, eliminating bacteria, regulating the activity of organs and vessels, etc.). At the same time, it generates antioxidants to eliminate excess free radicals.
When there is an excess of free radicals that are not destroyed, the probability of suffering from major diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, respiratory diseases, etc. increases.
A diet rich in antioxidants helps prevent the build-up of free radicals in the body.
Antioxidants are present in:
Fruits and Vegetables: e.g. carrot, peach, pumpkin, spinach, cabbage, chard, chard, grapefruit, lemon, tomato, watermelon, garlic, onion, leek.
They are also found in nuts, grains and some meat, poultry and fish. Some antioxidants, though not nutrients, have also been found in coffee, red wine and tea.
In short, antioxidants, as well as being necessary for the body to function, help us to prevent certain diseases such as cancer. We must not forget that cancer is a multifactorial disease and can appear for various reasons, not always preventable through the consumption of antioxidants.
An antitumour agent is any substance that prevents tumour growth and abnormal cell growth. It may be of natural, synthetic or semi-synthetic origin.
In chemotherapy, one of the conventional therapeutic options for cancer, different drugs are administered that have an anti-tumour action through different mechanisms, which seek to interrupt basic processes in cancer cells or act as cytotoxins that lead to the death of these cells.
Many of these substances are synthetic or semi-synthetic analogues of naturally occurring substances which, with minor modifications, are capable of fighting cancer cells.
Most of the substances used as anti-tumour agents are obtained from different types of plants, fungi, bacteria, proteins, antibodies, metals such as platinum, folic acid, urea, nitrogenous bases.
In nature, antitumourals have been found in animals such as corals and starfish, arachnids, reptiles.
Once we have seen the differences between the two types of substances, it is easier to understand that they are not the same, and that as far as cancer is concerned, antioxidants help to prevent to a certain extent, antitumour drugs help to treat the disease, to fight it.
It is important not to lose sight of this difference, as many patients consume antioxidants as a cure for cancer, without considering that although they are beneficial to health, their function is not to kill cancer cells.