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James D. Watson, who is a famous Nobel Laureate, has recently published new research in Open Biology that suggest that antioxidants could actually be more harmful than helpful to patients with certain advanced cancers. The information suggests that patients with certain late-stage metastatic cancers may not benefit from taking antioxidants because some hard-to-treat cancers actually have a way to produce antioxidants that neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS is the “killer” employed by most if not all anti-cancer therapies to kill cancer cells alongside healthy cells. ROS can be naturally generated or induced by cancer treatments and it can be beneficial and harmful to patients. When induced by radiation, ROS can cause damage to proteins, DNA and RNA leading to carcinogens or cancer development. On the other hand, ROS that stemmed from chemotherapy and radiotherapy leads to apoptosis, which leads to the death of cancer cells. The role of antioxidants in cancer development is still widely unknown but this research sheds new light. Healthy individuals can continue using antioxidants to prevent ROS from damaging proteins, RNA and DNA that would potentially lead to cancers.
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