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.
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
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