What Foods are Recommended for Cancer?
is a very common question. Personalized Nutrition Plans are foods and supplements which are personalized to a cancer indication, genes, any treatments and lifestyle conditions.

For Which Cancer Types Should I Avoid Retinol Supplement

May 25, 2021

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
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Nutritional supplements like Retinol have many health benefits and are being widely used by cancer patients and those at-genetic-risk of cancer. But, is it safe to take Retinol supplements for all types of cancer and without considering any ongoing treatments and other lifestyle conditions? A common belief but only a myth is that anything natural can only benefit me or do no harm. As one example, the use of grapefruit with certain medications is not recommended. Another example, the use of spinach with some blood thinning medications can cause adverse interactions and should be avoided. For cancer, nutrition which includes the food and natural supplements has been shown to influence outcomes. Hence a frequently asked question by cancer patients to dieticians and doctors is “What Should I eat and What Should I Avoid?”. 

Taking nutritional Retinol supplements can benefit Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma patients on Vorinostat cancer treatment. But avoid Retinol supplements if on Paclitaxel treatment for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. Similarly, taking nutritional supplement Retinol can benefit healthy individuals who are at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of the gene CDKN1B. But avoid taking nutritional supplement Retinol when at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of gene CHEK2.

The takeaway being – your individual context will influence your decision if nutritional supplement Retinol is safe or not. And also that this decision needs to be constantly revisited as conditions change. Conditions like cancer type, current ongoing treatments and supplements, age, gender, weight, height, lifestyle and any genetic mutations identified matter. So a legitimate question for you to ask for any recommendation of food and natural supplement is how it is related to your individual context. 

Brief Overview

Nutritional supplements – vitamins, herbs, minerals, probiotics, and other specialty categories are increasing. Supplements  are high concentrations of active ingredients which are also found in different foods. The difference being foods contain more than one active ingredient at lower diffused concentrations. Remember that each of these ingredients has its own science and biological mechanism at molecular level – hence choose  the right combination of supplements like Retinol based on individual context and conditions. 

Retinol Supplements for Cancer Treatment and genetic Risk

So the question is should you take the supplement Retinol? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene CHEK2? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene CDKN1B? Should you take it when diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma? Should you take Retinol supplement when diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma? Should you take it when on Paclitaxel treatment? Should you continue taking it if you change your treatment from Paclitaxel to Vorinostat? So a general explanation like – it is natural or it increases immunity may not be acceptable and sufficient for choosing Retinol. 


Cancer remains an unsolved problem statement. The improved availability of personalized treatments and monitoring of cancer via blood and saliva have been significant factors to improve outcomes. The earlier the intervention – the better the influence on outcome. Genetic testing has the potential to assess cancer risk and susceptibility early. But besides regular monitoring in most cases there are no therapeutic intervention options available. After diagnosis with cancer such as Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, the treatments get personalized to tumor genomics and factors like staging of disease, age and gender. During cancer remission (after treatment cycle is complete) – monitoring is used for assessment of any relapse and accordingly decide next steps. A large majority of cancer patients and those at-risk do take nutritional supplements like Retinol.

So the question is that are all genetic mutation risks and types of cancers to be considered as one when deciding the use of Retinol? Are the biochemical pathway implications of genetic risk for cancer due to mutation of gene CHEK2 the same as due to mutation of gene CDKN1B? Are the implications of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma same as Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma? Is it one and the same if you are on treatment with Paclitaxel or on Vorinostat? 

Retinol – A Nutritional Supplement

Retinol or vitamin A1 is a fat soluble vitamin which belongs to the vitamin A family. It is found in different foods and is also used as a dietary supplement. Retinol intake supports skin, eye, and reproductive health, normal growth in children, provides resistance to infection such as colds and flu, and is important for immune function. However, high doses of retinol may lead to enlarged liver, dry skin, or hypervitaminosis A.

As mentioned before, Retinol is an active ingredient found in various food items. Foods like Barley, Corn and Quinoa contain Retinol at different concentration levels along with other active ingredients. The molecular pathways which are regulated by Retinol include Focal Adhesion, Inflammation, Estrogen Signaling, Cell Cycle and NFKB Signaling. These cellular pathways directly or indirectly regulate specific cancer molecular endpoints like growth, spread and death. Because of this biological regulation – for cancer nutrition, the right choice of supplements like Retinol individually or in combination is an important decision to be made. When making decisions on the use of supplement Retinol for cancer – do consider all these factors and explanations. Because just as true for cancer treatments – Retinol use cannot be a one-size-fits-all decision for all types of cancers.

Choosing Retinol Supplements for Your Cancer

The reason there is no easy way to answer the question “When should I avoid Retinol for Cancer” is because “It Depends!”. Just like the same treatment does not work for every cancer patient, based on your individual context the Retinol may be harmful or safe. Along with which cancer and associated genetics – the ongoing treatments, supplements, lifestyle habits, BMI and allergies are all factors deciding if Retinol should be avoided or not and why.

1. Will Retinol Supplements benefit Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma/Cancer Patients undergoing Paclitaxel treatment?

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like NFIB and MYB leading to biochemical pathway changes in Focal Adhesion, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling, Notch Signaling and Cholesterol Metabolism. A cancer treatment like Paclitaxel works through a specific pathway mechanism of action. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach which is effective. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a contrary effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be avoided. As an example, Retinol should be avoided for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma along with treatment Paclitaxel. Retinol impacts pathways Focal Adhesion which either promote drivers of the disease and/or nullify the treatment effect. Additionally, Retinol supplements have CYP3A4 (drug metabolizing enzyme) interactions with Paclitaxel treatment, and hence should be avoided by cancer patients undergoing this treatment. (Kun Wang et al, Biochem Pharmacol., 2008; Pius S Fasinu et al, Front Oncol., 2019) Some of the factors which should be considered when choosing nutrition are type of cancer, treatments and supplements being taken currently (if any), age, gender, BMI, lifestyle and any genetic mutation information (if available).

2. Will Retinol Supplements benefit Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Patients undergoing Vorinostat Cancer Treatment?

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like KMT2D and CREBBP leading to biochemical pathway changes in Inflammation, NFKB Signaling, Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and P53 Signaling. A cancer treatment like Vorinostat works through specific pathway mechanisms. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a compatible effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be considered. As an example, Retinol supplement should be considered for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma along with treatment Vorinostat. Retinol supplement impacts pathways Inflammation and NFKB Signaling which either obstruct drivers of the disease (Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma) and/or improve the treatment effect. 

For Which Cancer to Avoid taking Supplement Retinol

Foods to Eat After Cancer Diagnosis!

No two cancers are the same. Go beyond the common nutrition guidelines for everyone and make personalized decisions about food and supplements with confidence.

3. Are Retinol Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with CHEK2 Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?

Different companies offer panels of genes to be tested for assessing genetic risk to different cancers. These panels cover genes associated with cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, prostate, and gastrointestinal system and others. Genetic testing of these genes may confirm a diagnosis and help guide treatment and management decisions. Identification of a disease-causing variant may also guide testing and diagnosis of at-risk relatives. CHEK2 is one of the genes generally available in panels for cancer risk testing.

CHEK2 mutation causes biochemical pathways Estrogen Signaling, DNA Repair, Stem Cell Signaling, P53 Signaling and Cell Cycle to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Retinol should be avoided when the genetic panel identifies mutation of CHEK2 for Breast Cancer. Retinol impacts pathways Estrogen Signaling and DNA Repair and creates adverse effects with CHEK2 and related conditions.

4. Are Retinol Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with CDKN1B Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?

CDKN1B is one of the genes available in panels for cancer risk testing. CDKN1B mutation causes biochemical pathways Cell Cycle, Stem Cell Signaling, FOXO Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and Cell Cycle Checkpoints to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Retinol  when the genetic panel identifies mutation in CDKN1B for Neuroendocrine Cancer. Retinol impacts pathways Cell Cycle and Stem Cell Signaling and creates an additive effect with CDKN1B and related conditions.

Which Cancer Types to Avoid Retinol Supplement

* Other Factors are also included like BMI, Lifestyle Habits, Treatments

In Conclusion

The two most important things to remember are that cancer treatments and nutrition are never the same for everyone. Nutrition which includes food and nutritional supplements like Retinol, is an effective tool which can be controlled by you, while facing cancer.

What food you eat and which supplements you take is a decision you make. Your decision should include consideration of the cancer gene mutations, which cancer, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, lifestyle information, weight, height and habits.

The nutrition planning for cancer from addon is not based on internet searches. It automates the decision making for you based on molecular science implemented by our scientists and software engineers. Irrespective of whether you care to understand the underlying biochemical molecular pathways or not - for nutrition planning for cancer that understanding is needed.

Get started NOW with your nutrition planning by answering questions on the name of cancer, genetic mutations, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, habits, lifestyle, age group and gender.


Personalized Nutrition for Cancer!

Cancer changes with time. Customize and modify your nutrition based on cancer indication, treatments, lifestyle, food preferences, allergies and other factors.

Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.

Scientifically Reviewed by: Dr. Cogle

Christopher R. Cogle, M.D. is a tenured professor at the University of Florida, Chief Medical Officer of Florida Medicaid, and Director of the Florida Health Policy Leadership Academy at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service.

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