Prostate Cancer information : Vitamin E benefits uncertain

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended against routine vitamin use to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. The recommendation was based on a series of clinical trials that found that antioxidant supplements do not reduce the risks of these diseases. However, just a few weeks later, results from the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene (ATBC) Cancer Prevention Trial showed that men with high blood levels of alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) had a lower risk of prostate cancer, reports Harvard Men's Health Watch.

"The ATBC research provides some support for vitamin E, but it's not conclusive," notes Dr. Harvey Simon, editor in chief of Harvard Men's Health Watch. "Although it was a well-conducted clinical trial, its primary goal was to evaluate lung cancer. More important, all the subjects were smokers." A few other studies looked into this matter and found that vitamin E was not consistently beneficial in reducing the risk of prostate cancer in smokers and nonsmokers.

The relationship between vitamin E and prostate cancer has yet another complexity. Vitamin E consists of a family of chemicals known as tocopherols. Alpha-tocopherol, the form usually found in supplements, is most common. But another tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, which is found in foods but not normally in supplements, may have an impact on prostate cancer. Studies disagree, however, on which form has the greatest effect.

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