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Health News Archive 297 - Breast Cancer
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Ginseng Associated with Reduced Death and Increased Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Patients

According to a recent study by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, ginseng may improve survival and quality of life after a diagnosis of breast cancer. The large epidemiological study followed 1,455 breast cancer patients in Shanghai since 1996. The report states that patients who regularly used ginseng prior to diagnosis tended to have a high survival rate. The study also found that patients who regularly took ginseng after diagnosis generally had an improved quality of life compared to those who did not.

Breast cancer patients who consume ginseng experience a reduced death rate from breast cancer and have an improved quality of life, according to an epidemiological study in China.

The study authors evaluated the associations of ginseng use as a complementary therapy with survival and quality of life in 1,455 breast cancer patients recruited to the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study between August 1996 and March 1998. Patients were followed through December 2002.

The scientists collected information about ginseng use before cancer diagnosis at baseline recruitment. The average daily dose of the herb was 1.3 grams. In addition to ginseng, all subjects underwent at least one form of mainstream breast cancer treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy (otherwise known as cut, poison, and burn).

Approximately 27 percent of study participants were regular ginseng users before cancer diagnosis. Compared with breast cancer patients who never used ginseng, regular users had a significantly reduced risk of death. Ginseng consumers were 30 percent more likely to survive the illness compared to non-users. In addition, ginseng use after cancer diagnosis, particularly current use, was positively associated with quality of life scores. The strongest effect on quality of life was in the psychological and social well-being domains. In particular, patients currently taking ginseng were less likely to experience depression and other negative feelings. Additionally, quality of life improved as cumulative ginseng use increased.

The researchers called for their findings to be confirmed in randomized clinical trials.

Reference: Cui Y, Shu XO, Gao YT, Cai H, Tao MH, Zheng W. Association of ginseng use with survival and quality of life among breast cancer patients. Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Apr 1;163(7):645-53. Epub 2006 Feb 16.

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