Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women and it is reported that 1 in 38 patients dies from this threatening cancer killer and only America is seeing the increasing number of incidence and has about 200,000 new cases of breast cancer each year. With interest in complementary medicine increasing over years, a huge number of scientists pin their focus in herbal medicines which are credited with low toxicity on normal cells. Ginseng and its bioactive constituents ginsenosides gain huge popularity in many areas of the world due to their low toxicity and powerful anticancer activities.
A scientific research Shanghai Breast Cancer Study was launched, with the aim to illustrate the association of ginseng use with survival and quality of life ( QOL) among breast cancer patients. 1,445 breast cancer patients were involved in this study and the data were collected and recorded for 5 years.
The study evaluated the effect of ginseng use on overall survival and disease-free survival respectively in 5-year survival rates, finding that regular ginseng user had a better overall survival rate compared with nonuser and that the beneficial effects of ginseng started 2.5 years after cancer diagnosis. The same trend goes for disease-free survival rates. The regular ginseng users showed a higher disease-free survival rate, compared with those nonusers, and beneficial effect of ginseng use started 1.2 years after cancer diagnosis.
The quality of life was scored from four areas, that is, physical well-being, psychological well-being, social well-being as well as material well-being. Some important factors include sleep and energy, appetite, negative feeling and self-images, social relationship, marriage and family, living environment, financial situation etc.. The study results impressively showed the beneficial effect of ginseng on QOL may come primarily from current use rather than ever use of ginseng. Compared with never users, current users reported having significantly better QOL in almost all areas except physical well-being. Current use of ginseng was positively associated with overall QOL score and the psychological, social and material areas and this showed a significant dose-dependent relation.
While ginseng does good for promoting health, vitality and longevity, its bioactive constituents ginsenosides go further and were reported to exhibit stronger anti-breast cancer activities. Researchers from Sookmyung Women’s University in South Korea found that ginsenoside Rg5 exhibits anti-breast cancer efficacy through three mechanisms of action; New research published in the journal Cancer uncovered that rare ginsenoside aPPD inhibits estrogen-stimulated gene expression and cell proliferation in ER-positive breast cancer cells and that aPPD synergistically enhances the cytotoxicity of tamoxifen in an ER-independent manner.
The study finally concluded that regular use of ginseng at a dose of 1.3 g per day may improve both overall and disease-free survival and enhance the QOL of breast cancer survivors. It is believed that long-term use of ginseng and ginsenosides are favorable as an adjuvant candidate for preventing and treating cancer.