Vitamin E may boost risk of prostate cancer

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By David Liu, Ph.D.

Saturday Oct 29, 2011 (foodconsumer.org) -- Not all antioxidants help prevent cancer. Taking vitamin E supplements may actually increase risk of prostate cancer, a study in the Oct 12, 2011 issue of Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests.

The study led by E. A. Klein of Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio and colleagues found men who took vitamin E supplements were 17 percent more likely than those who did not to develop prostate cancer.

The association was based on results from an analysis of data from 35,533 men in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The participants who were at least 50 years were considered healthy at baseline, that is, their prostate-specific antigen or PSA was less 4.0 ng/ml, and free of prostate cancer determined by digital rectal examination.  

In the study, participants were divided into four groups, one group given 200 ug of L-selenomethionine/day, one group 400 IU of rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, one group both selenium and vitamin E and one group a placebo.  The subjects were followed up for seven to 12 years.

The vitamin E supplementation was associated with 17 percent increased risk of prostate cancer while selenium supplementation was linked to a 9 percent increase and selenium plus vitamin E was correlated with a 5 percent increase in the risk.

The researchers concluded that "dietary supplementation with vitamin E significantly increased the risk of prostate cancer among healthy men."

It should be noted that there are many types of vitamin E.  The study does not prove all types of vitamin E may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed in about 180,000 men in the United States each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. The disease poses a low risk and many preventative measures can be taken to prevent this disease.

Vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopherol is found high in vegetable oils like olive oil, soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, spinach and avocado.

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