Monday, October 24, 2011

Vitamin E and cancer

We all think of vitamin supplements as beneficial or at the very least harmless, but a study published in JAMA questions that. Men taking a vitamin E supplement for 7 years were 17% more likely than those taking a placebo to develop cancer. The difference was statistically significant. The trials was looking at whether vitamin E and selenium either together or separately could help prevent prostate cancer, and involved 35,000 healthy middle aged men. There was no impact on the incidence of other cancers, diabetes or cardiovascular events. The supplements did not save lives. Vitamin E may be natural but it is not harmless. The same, of course might be said of snakebite and the GREAT WHITE SHARK.


Dan Cullen, Westchester, NY said...

Dr. Hamblin,

How does this (all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate) juxtapose with work by Dr. Jiang of Purdue - "gamma-tocopherol, but not alpha-tocopherol, inhibits growth and induces cell dealth in prostate and lung cancer cells but has no effect on normal prostate epithelial cells." Refer to:

I have the earlier SELECT in my notes ( and am trying to reconcile both SELECT findings with what Dr. Jiang has reported finding.

Am I correct in thinking that it is the specific form of Vitamin E?

Ron Karp said...

The study reports the relative risk increase in Prostate Cancer of 17% with Vitamin E supplementation. This translates into an absolute risk of under 1 out of a thousand. And those who took both Selenium and Vitamin E had no increase in risk.

Despite the media hype and other contraditary studies, there is not much here to conclude.

Anonymous said...

Vitamin D is now being prescribed in larger doses ie.2000iu daily, for many people. Are you aware of any studies cautioning against this?

Terry Hamblin said...

I suspect that vitamins have no effect on cancer either way. Studies which say they do or don't are always very marginal.