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Vitamin E prevents liver cancer

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By David Liu, PHD

Sunday July 22, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Taking vitamin E supplements or eating vitamin E rich foods may help reduce risk for liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma, according to a Chinese study published on July 17, 2012 in Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study led by W. Zhang of State Key Laboratory of Oncogene and Related Genes in Shanghai, China and colleagues showed that intake of vitamin E regardless its source, diet or supplements, was inversely associated with risk of liver cancer, meaning high intake was linked to lower risk.

The study was intended to examine  how vitamin intake from diet and supplements affect the risk of liver cancer in 132,837 men and women from China who were enrolled in the Shanghai Women's Health Study from 1997 to 2000 or the Shanghai Men's Health Study from 2002 to 2006.

Intake of dietary vitamins and supplemental vitamins was surveyed using a validated food frequency questionnaire.  Participants were followed up for 10.9 years in Shanghai Women's Health Study and 5.5 years in Shanghai Men's Health Study, and 118 women and 149 men developed liver cancer during the study.

The association of vitamin E with liver cancer was found in the whole study population regardless of the participants' liver health statuses - whether or not they had self-reported liver disease or family history of liver cancer.

Interestingly, supplemental vitamin C and multivitamin use was found correlated with increased risk among participants with self-reported liver disease or family history of liver cancer. In contrast, intake of dietary vitamin C and othe rvitamins was not associated with liver cancer risk.

The researchers concluded that vitamin E intake either from diet or supplements, may help reduce risk of liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma.

The biggest risk factors for liver cancer are hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus, and a mold toxin called aflatoxin which is found high in peanuts, corn, and other nuts and grains.  Other risk factors include heavy alcohol use, iron storage disease, obesity and diabetes.

It should be noted that the study results may not be applicable to another country because the way vitamin supplements are made can be different from country to country.

Whenever a food consumer needs to buy some dietary supplement, he needs to pay attention to the ingredient list. Lots of fillers, artificial colorants and flavors, and potentially harmful ingredients are commonly used in many dietary supplements.

Vitamin E foods include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, swiss Chard, turnip Greens, papaya, mustard Greens, collard Greens, asparagus, and bell peppers.

Liver cancer, most commonly hepatocellular carcinoma, is deadly.  It is expected that in 2012, 28,720 men and women in the United States will develop liver cancer. The disease is expected to kill 20,550 people in the U.S. in 2012, according to the National Cancer Institute.

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