Question: Can Vitamin E Help Prevent Cancer?
When I think of vitamins, I don't think about cancer prevention, I think about my mom putting a pin in a big capsule when I was a kid and squeezing the contents onto a bun. But vitamin E has a good reputation as a cancer fighter. What happens when research looks into the claim that vitamin E can prevent cancer?
If you took a vitamin E supplement every other day for 9 years, would your cancer risk change? That is the question that researchers wanted to answer with a group of 7,600 women aged 40 or older. The women were randomly divided into a group that took a vitamin E supplement (600 international units of alpha-tocopherol a.k.a. “vitamin E”) or a placebo (other women in the study took vitamin C or beta-carotene). The result? The cancer risk for the vitamin E takers was the same as the placebo group. So, according to these data, vitamin E does not protect against cancer.
OK, but what about men? There is an ongoing study of 14,641 physicians. One of the things being tested was the impact of vitamin E on prostate cancer risk. One group of the physicians were given a vitamin E supplement every other day (400IU of vitamin E) and another group was given a placebo (another group took vitamin C). After 10 years, there was no difference in the risk for cancer and prostate cancer between the vitamin C takers and the placebo takers.
So, in both these studies, neither men nor women seemed to benefit from taking supplements of vitamin E, in terms of cancer risk. It could be that vitamin E has other benefits, but it seems, based on these data, that cancer prevention is not an apparent benefit of taking vitamin E supplements.
Sources: Lin, J. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Jan. 7, 2009; vol 101: pp 14-23.