Minerals fighting cancer

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Its antioxidant, immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties may be key in the development and treatment of tumours

The project
Who is behind

Minerals are essential nutrients that play a vital role in many physiological and biochemical processes, as they act as cofactors of several key enzymes (proteins that are responsible for catalysing the biochemical reactions of metabolism) involved in antioxidant defence, immune response, wound healing and regulation of gene expression, among other functions.

Although the physiological requirements of minerals are well defined in both humans and animals, and mineral supplementation in the diet has proven to be an effective and safe tool for the prevention of specific mineral-induced diseases, mineral deficiencies are very common worldwide. In most cases, these are silent processes that do not cause a clear clinical manifestation, but that act as aggravators in other diseases.

In recent years, many scientific publications have revealed mineral deficiencies and imbalances in numerous clinical pathologies, particularly in critically ill patients. In these patients, oxidative stress (biochemical alterations that occurs when oxidation exceeds the body's antioxidant systems creating a severe imbalance between the two) is involved in the development of secondary tissue damage and organic failure, and minerals that contribute to the antioxidant defence, mainly selenium, copper and zinc, show low blood levels.

Among critically ill patients, the role of minerals is especially relevant in cancer patients. Thus, it has been shown that there is a close relationship between certain mineral deficiencies and certain types of tumours. For example, selenium in breast and prostate tumours. The Anorexia-cachexia syndrome is very common in advanced cancer. In these processes, deficiencies of essential elements such as selenium, zinc or iron often occur. These elements are also very important in the inflammatory process that occurs around most of these tumours, which causes nutritional needs to be higher than in healthy individuals.

Recent studies show that supplementation with antioxidant micronutrients (including selenium) is proving to be an adjuvant treatment in chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which decreases the side effects of these treatments and improves patients' quality of life and prognosis.

What is our goal?

The objective of this project is to investigate the role of minerals in cancer patients to elucidate their possible role in the incidence of certain types of tumours and assess whether their supplementation, as a complement to conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy therapies, could improve the prognosis of these patients.

The first step in this project is to establish the baseline mineral status of the healthy population. Our experience as veterinarians indicates that in the North of Spain mineral deficiencies—especially of selenium, iodine and copper—are very frequent, and the diets of farm animals are routinely supplemented with minerals to guaranty health and performance. People and animals share many sources of food and it is very reasonable to think that the same deficiencies occur also in people, however strange as it may sound, there are hardly any studies on it.

Who will benefit from our project?

In our country, at least one in three people will suffer from cancer throughout their lives. Knowing the role that minerals can have in the development of cancer, as well as the benefits of including mineral supplements in its treatment, benefits us all.

Do you want more information?

In addition, you can collaborate with our project by donating a blood sample to establish the mineral status of our population. On our website you will find more information about the project "Minerals fighting cancer" and the places where you can go to donate your blood sample.

Moreover, we share with you other projects on minerals in which we participate and links of interest about the role of minerals in cancer.

Visit us at:

https://www.usc.gal/campusterra/minerais-contra-o-cancro

 

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