Glucosamine May Reduce Joint Pain Caused by Breast Cancer Treatment

Structure of Glucosamine
Structure of Glucosamine

Glucosamine and chondroitin may improve joint pain associated with some breast cancer treatments, according to a study published in the November 2013 Supportive Care and Cancer Journal by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Researchers examined 39 women who were in the first stage of breast cancer and who experienced joint pain caused by aromatase inhibitor (AI) treatments. For 24 weeks, the study’s participants took 1500 milligrams of glucosamine sulfate and 1200 milligrams of chondroitin sulfate along with the AI treatments.

The study’s results found that the glucosamine and chondroitin combination was correlated with moderate improvements in joint pain associated with AI treatment. Specifically, 46% reported to have improved symptoms at the end of the study. There were few side effects and no changes in estradiol levels (a necessary estrogen-type hormone in the body as well as a treatment for several types of cancers).

Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are a class of pharmaceutical drugs used to treat breast and ovarian cancers in post-menopausal women. AIs work by inhibiting the synthesizing of the hormone estrogen, which presence is necessary for these types of cancers to grow. Unfortunately, as AIs block the production of estrogen, women can develop arthralgias –which are serious joint pain and stiffness issues that can affect the knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, finders, and hands.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are compounds naturally found in cartilage. As people age, are injured, or are prone to osteoarthritis, this joint cartilage breaks down. Glucosamine and chondroitin have long been used by sufferers of arthritis as health supplements, as some studies have shown moderate improvements in joint pain and cartilage protection and repair with their use.

Researchers emphasize that further studies, including more comprehensive double-blind placebo studies, must be conducted before the results are conclusive.

This study’s results are promising because there so few side effects associated with glucosamine and chondroitin. Cancer patients are often overwhelmed with side effects from cancer treatment drugs, so a safe solution to reducing the arthralgias side effect is quite desirable. In this study, the few side effects include headache, indigestion, and nausea.

The abstract of the study can be found here.

Kim Alexander

Advocate of arthritis research and education.

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