Nutritional supplements like Bitter Melon 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 Bitter Melon 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 Bitter Melon supplements can benefit Merkel Cell Carcinoma patients on Hydroxyurea cancer treatment. But avoid Bitter Melon supplements if on Cytarabine treatment for Myeloproliferative Neoplasms. Similarly, taking nutritional supplement Bitter Melon can benefit healthy individuals who are at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of the gene PDGFRA. But avoid taking nutritional supplement Bitter Melon when at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of gene POLH.
The takeaway being – your individual context will influence your decision if nutritional supplement Bitter Melon 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.
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 Bitter Melon based on individual context and conditions.
So the question is should you take the supplement Bitter Melon? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene POLH? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of the gene PDGFRA? Should you take it when diagnosed with Myeloproliferative Neoplasms? Should you take it when diagnosed with Merkel Cell Carcinoma? Should you take it when on Cytarabine treatment? Should you continue taking Bitter Melon supplement if you change your treatment from Cytarabine to Hydroxyurea? So a general explanation like – it is natural or it increases immunity may not be acceptable and sufficient for choosing Bitter Melon.
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 Myeloproliferative Neoplasms or Merkel Cell Carcinoma, 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 Bitter Melon.
So the question is that are all genetic mutation risks and types of cancers to be considered as one when deciding the use of Bitter Melon? Are the biochemical pathway implications of genetic risk for cancer due to mutation of gene POLH the same as due to mutation of gene PDGFRA? Are the implications of Myeloproliferative Neoplasms the same as Merkel Cell Carcinoma? Is it one and the same if you are on treatment with Cytarabine or on Hydroxyurea?
Bitter Melon – A Nutritional Supplement
Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd, is a fruit-like gourd, native to tropical India and Southeast Asia. As the name suggests, it has a bitter flavor. It is highly nutritious as it contains many antioxidants, flavonoids and other nutrients. It is widely consumed as a fruit or vegetable, mostly due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and immunomodulating effects. Following are some of the potential health benefits of Bitter melon:
- May help reduce blood sugar
- May help in weight loss
- May help reduce cholesterol
- May help in wound healing
It is also available in the form of dietary supplements. However, excess intake of Bitter melon can lead to certain side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Bitter Melon supplements contain many active ingredients including Cucurbitacin I, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Caffeic Acid and Retinol at different concentration levels. The molecular pathways which are regulated by Bitter Melon include NFKB Signaling, P53 Signaling, DNA Repair, Stem Cell Signaling and MYC 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 Bitter Melon individually or in combination is an important decision to be made. When making decisions on the use of supplement Bitter Melon for cancer – do consider all these factors and explanations. Because just as true for cancer treatments – Bitter Melon use cannot be a one-size-fits-all decision for all types of cancers.
Choosing Bitter Melon Supplements for Your Cancer
The reason there is no easy way to answer the question “When should I avoid Bitter Melon for Cancer” is because “It Depends!”. Just like the same treatment does not work for every cancer patient, based on your individual context the Bitter Melon 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 Bitter Melon should be avoided or not and why.
1. Will Bitter Melon Supplements benefit Cancer Patients with Myeloproliferative Neoplasms undergoing Cytarabine treatment?
Myeloproliferative Neoplasms is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like JAK2 and CALR leading to biochemical pathway changes in NFKB Signaling, MYC Signaling, MAPK Signaling, JAK-STAT Signaling and Cytokine Signaling. A cancer treatment like Cytarabine 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, Bitter Melon should be avoided for Myeloproliferative Neoplasms along with treatment Cytarabine. Bitter Melon impacts pathways/processes like NFKB Signaling and MYC Signaling which either promote drivers of the disease and/or nullify the treatment effect. Additionally, Bitter Melon Supplements contain many active ingredients including Cucurbitacin I, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Caffeic Acid and Retinol which have CYP3A4 interactions with Cytarabine treatment, and hence should be avoided by cancer patients undergoing this treatment. (Hsien-Tsung Yao et al, Life Sci., 2006; Churdsak Jaikang et al, J. Med. Plants Res., 2011; Kun Wang et al, Biochem Pharmacol., 2008; Jian Lu et al, Phytomedicine., 2017; Dawn E Colburn et al, Hematology., 2004)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 Bitter Melon Supplements benefit Cancer Patients with Merkel Cell Carcinoma undergoing Hydroxyurea Treatment?
Merkel Cell Carcinoma is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like TP53 and RB1 leading to biochemical pathway changes in P53 Signaling, JAK-STAT Signaling, Apoptosis, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and Cell Cycle. A cancer treatment like Hydroxyurea 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, Bitter Melon supplement should be considered for Merkel Cell Carcinoma along with treatment Hydroxyurea. Bitter Melon supplement impacts pathways/processes like P53 Signaling and JAK-STAT Signaling which either obstruct drivers of the disease and/or improve the Hydroxyurea treatment effect.
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 Bitter Melon Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with POLH 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. POLH is one of the genes generally available in panels for cancer risk testing.
POLH mutation causes biochemical pathways/processes like DNA Repair, Angiogenesis, Stem Cell Signaling and MAPK Signaling to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Bitter Melon should be avoided when the genetic panel identifies mutation of POLH for Skin Cancer. Bitter Melon impacts pathways/processes like DNA Repair and Angiogenesis and creates adverse effects with POLH and related conditions.
4. Are Bitter Melon Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with PDGFRA Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
PDGFRA is one of the genes available in panels for cancer risk testing. PDGFRA mutation causes biochemical pathways/processes like Stem Cell Signaling, Angiogenesis, RAS-RAF Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and Growth Factor Signaling to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Consider taking Bitter Melon supplements when the genetic panel identifies mutation in PDGFRA for Gastric Cancer. Bitter Melon impacts pathways/processes like Stem Cell Signaling and Angiogenesis and creates a supportive effect in those with PDGFRA and related conditions.
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 Bitter Melon, 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.