Chondroitin and melanoma: How worried should you be?

Woman holding a glass of water and pills, detail

Chondroitin sulfate is among the most popular supplements in the world. It’s often taken in combination with glucosamine for joint disease — some take it for prevention, others to treat pain.

And yet, evidence that it actually works at all is limited at best. One review of the evidence suggested that of the few studies of chondroitin that were positive, nearly all were funded by makers of the supplement. Despite this, millions of people take it, many of my patients swear by it, and the lack of evidence doesn’t seem to be much of a concern to them. A frequent comment I hear is: “Well, I’m not sure if it’s doing much but it can’t hurt, right?” A new study suggests that maybe it can.

Can chondroitin increase melanoma risk?

Researchers publishing in the medical journal Molecular Cell are raising concerns that chondroitin sulfate may encourage the development or recurrence of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. Here’s what they found:

  • The growth of human melanoma cells with a particular mutation (called V600E) that had been grafted onto the skin of mice was promoted when the mice consumed chondroitin sulfate. About half of human melanomas contain this mutation.
  • Among mice fed chondroitin sulfate, these melanoma tumors were more resistant to an antitumor drug, vemurafenib, than those without the mutation.

Although this research did not actually study people with melanoma, the study authors speculate that for people with precancerous skin growths containing the V600E mutation, taking chondroitin might be a bad idea because it could speed up tumor growth. And if a person had melanoma in the past, taking chondroitin might make recurrence more likely.

The research linking chondroitin and melanoma is preliminary

It’s important to point out that this is preliminary research. Although the tumor cells studied came from humans, a link between chondroitin sulfate use and melanoma in humans has not yet been established. It’s possible that these results aren’t relevant to actual people — for example, the doses or metabolism of chondroitin sulfate may be so different in humans (vs. mice) that these results do not apply to humans. It is not rare that studies in animals do not translate directly to people.

Why does this matter?

Melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer, but unlike many other skin cancers (such as basal cell cancers), simply removing the cancer doesn’t always cure it. It can spread quickly even years after apparent “cure.” Estimates are that more than 90,000 people learn they have melanoma each year, and more than 9,000 people die of the disease annually.

Here’s my take: this research is quite preliminary, and might turn out to have little relevance to human disease. But if chondroitin sulfate may promote melanoma growth — and it’s not clear that this supplement is particularly helpful anyway — I’d advise against its use, at least until we know more.

Related Information: The Joint Pain Relief Workout: Healing exercises for your…

Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5  NIV

Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8 NIV

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4 NIV

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14 NIV

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13  NIV

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16 NIV

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 NIV

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NIV

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 NIV

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