Written by Mario Rottorf, Helen Cooke and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated June 21, 2016

Coenzyme Q10

Abstract and key points

  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an organic compound produced by the body in small quantities.
  • Evidence to support CoQ10 working as an anti-cancer agent is insufficient.
  • Evidence to support a proposed theory that CoQ10 may counteract cancer-related fatigue is lacking.
  • Weak evidence is available that CoQ10 protects the heart from chemotherapy-induced toxicity.
  • Only minor side effects have been reported.

 

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an organic compound which is synthesized endogenously by the human body and plays a critical part in the electron transport of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. It also has extracellular oxidative and antioxidant effects.

The need to supplement CoQ10 via the diet is very low. Nevertheless, CoQ10 supplements are widely sold and advertised with many health-related claims.

The reason for this is that there have been reports about the preventive effects of CoQ10 supplements on cancer. The underlying mechanisms of action are thought to be immunomodulatory and antioxidant in nature.

There is limited evidence that CoQ10 is effective in cancer prevention or can protect against the adverse effects and toxicity of cancer treatments. A prospective study indicated some evidence of a decrease in the recurrence rate of malignant melanoma; five randomised controlled trials showed cardioprotective effects in anthracycline-based chemotherapy; one study demonstrated a decrease in fatigue among breast cancer patients; and another prospective study suggested a reduction in the adverse effects of treatment with interferon. These findings need to be interpreted with great caution, however, since the clinical trials had numerous methodological flaws.

Adverse effects of CoQ10 rarely occur, are dose-dependent, and usually not severe. Due to its structural similarity with Vitamin K, an interaction with coumarin derivatives is possible, although it has only been described in individual cases. 

Citation

Mario Rottorf, Helen Cooke, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Coenzyme Q10 [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Dietary-approaches/Coenzyme-Q10. June 21, 2016.

Document history

Revised in September 2016 by Mario Rottorf and Helen Cooke
Assessed as up to date in April 2014 by Barbara Wider.
Revised and updated in December 2012 by Helen Cooke.
Fully revised and updated in September 2011 by Helen Cooke.
Fully revised and updated in August 2009 by Helen Cooke.
First published in 2005, authored by Helen Seers and Helen Cooke.

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