Vitamin E temporarily ups cancer risk

April 6, 2005 in Cancer Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Vitamin E temporarily ups cancer risk
In a recent three-year Canadian study of 500 patients with head and neck cancer the use of vitamin E supplements (400 IU) was associated with an increased risk of cancer recurrence or the development a new cancer.

However, during the second phase of the study when supplementation was discontinued, former vitamin E users had a lower risk of cancer than their counterparts who had been given a placebo. The fact that an elevated cancer risk was not seen in the second phase of the study has lead researchers to suspect that vitamin E use may simply have had a screening effect � leading to the earlier detection of cancers.

Even though the cancer risk returned to the same level as the placebo group once patients discontinued vitamin E supplementation, these findings may raise consumer concerns about taking high-dose vitamin E.

Researchers expressed surprise at the findings, as their initial expectation was that vitamin E supplementation would reduce or delay the risk of second primary cancer.

The risk of cancer in each group (vitamin E or placebo) depended on the phase of the study. During the treatment phase, vitamin E users were 86 percent more likely to develop cancer than placebo users. After treatment was stopped, former vitamin E users were 29 percent less likely to develop cancer compared with former placebo users.

Canadian researchers warned that this study was carried out on patients at high risk of cancer and therefore the findings cannot be generalized to the healthy population.

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