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Reactive Oxygen Metabolites, Antioxidants and Head and Neck Cancer

Michael D. Seidman, MD, FACS*
Wayne S. Quirk, Ph.D**
Najeeb A. Shirwany, MD*

* From the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit MI
** From the Department of Communication Disorders, Office of Graduate Studies, Mankato State University, Mankato, MN

This paper will review the possible role of reactive oxygen metabolites (ROM) in cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. The etiopathogenesis of neoplastic change has been elusive because of the multiplicity of promoters and inducers of malignancy. The convergent effects of genetics, environmental exposures and diet are known to have significant but undefined roles in oncogenesis. There is an accumulating body of evidence implicating toxic oxygen metabolites in tumor formation and promotion. In view of the facts that generation of reactive oxygen metabolites may be attenuated and dietary manipulations may have a positive effect against cancer formation, this paper will explore the role of ROM in tumor biology and discuss potential preventive options. Organisms have adapted elaborate defense mechanisms to provide surveillance and destroy abnormal cellular formation, however a threshold can be reached at which point the host no longer has the ability to protect itself. When or even before such a threshold is reached, the benefit derived from introducing biologically active molecules designed to combat the onset of tumorogenesis, may enhance our abilities to treat and manage malignant disorders. Currently, there are many treatment options for cancer that depend upon the type and the current tumor stage. Some options are curative while others remain palliative. The opportunity to prevent tumorogenesis has obvious clinical appeal and perhaps after defining the role of ROM and cancer additional treatment or preventive options can be considered.
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