April 2013

Glucosamine May Reduce Joint Pain of Breast Cancer Treatment

Many women who discontinue aromatase inhibitor (AI) treatment for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer due to joint pain may benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin.

Hormone receptors are breast cell proteins that pick up signals telling the cells to grow. Hormone receptor-positive cancer may be treated with hormone therapy that either lowers hormone levels in the body or blocks hormones from supporting cancer cell growth.

Aromatase is the enzyme that makes estrogen. An aromatase inhibitor would block this action, which may help slow or stop cancer growth. Joint pain and stiffness may result from this treatment.

Glucosamine has been studied for its possible benefits in relieving these symptoms. Glucosamine is a natural compound that is found in healthy cartilage. Available evidence supports the use of glucosamine sulfate in the treatment of osteoarthritis, particularly of the knee. Glucosamine is commonly taken in combination with chondroitin, a compound derived from cartilage.

In the current study, researchers observed the effects of 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine sulfate and 1,200 milligrams of chondroitin sulfate taken by mouth daily for 24 weeks. They looked at the effects of these supplements in 53 postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer who experienced joint pain and stiffness after AI therapy.

A total of 39 women completed the study through week 24. About 46 percent of the subjects had improvements in their symptoms at the end of the study. The results suggested that the participants benefited in terms of pain and function. Common side effects included headache (28 percent), indigestion (15 percent), and nausea (17 percent).

The research team concluded that 24 weeks of glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation may help reduce joint pain associated with AI treatment in women with breast cancer. More studies are needed before firm conclusions can be made on the use of these supplements for this purpose.

For more information about glucosamine, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Greenlee H, Crew KD, Shao T, et al. Phase II study of glucosamine with chondroitin on aromatase inhibitor-associated joint symptoms in women with breast cancer. Support Care Cancer. 2013 Apr;21(4):1077-87. doi: 10.1007/s00520-012-1628-z. Epub 2012 Nov 1. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.

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