VA study suggests glucosamine protects against lung cancer

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From Green Right Now Reports

Glucosamine plays a key role in building cartilage and many older people take glucosamine supplements to reduce inflammation from osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that occurs when cartilage breaks down or is lost. Now a  team of researchers has found that taking glucosamine may also prevent lung cancer.

The researchers from the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center and the Portland VA Medical Center have found that taking glucosamine recently released  the study, in which people who used the supplement for a long period of time developed fewer cases of adenocarcinoma — a type of cancer — of the lung than others their age who did not take the supplement.

The team’s study, titled “Use of Glucosamine and Chondroitin and Lung Cancer Risk in the VITamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort,” was published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control in September 2011. The beneficial effect of glucosamine was seen in people who used it for three years or more, and appeared to be similar to that of anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

Since inflammation is known to play an important role in the development of lung and other cancers, anti-inflammatory medications have long been considered to have a possible protective role. However, in contrast to aspirin and ibuprofen, glucosamine, an amino sugar produced naturally in the body,  has no known adverse effects.

Theodore Brasky, PhD, post-doctoral research fellow at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center and the study’s principal author, tempered the study’s conclusions by saying, “Our study is the first to examine the association between the use of glucosamine and similar supplements and cancer risk. More research is needed to determine whether these findings are real, rather than the result of chance.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2007 203,536 Americans were diagnosed with lung cancer and 158,683 people died from it.

Other research has shown that high doses or prolonged use of glucosamine causes the death of pancreatic cells and could increase the risk of developing diabetes. A team of scientists at Universit Laval’s Faculty of Pharmacy found that glucosamine triggers a mechanism intended to lower very high blood sugar levels. However, this reaction negatively affects SIRT1, a protein critical to cell survival.

Doctors warn that glucosamine can have effects that are far from harmless and should be used with caution.

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