University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Extra Vitamin E Linked to Prostate Cancer, But Diet Still Merits Study

By Jeffrey Norris | October 24, 2011

Taking vitamin E supplements appear to increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer, according to a study that appears in the Oct. 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A multi-institutional team of researchers reported findings from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), a study begun in 2001. They found that men age 50 and older who took 400 units of vitamin E daily were diagnosed with prostate cancer at a 17 percent higher rate than men who popped placebos.

UCSF’s June Chan, ScD, is no stranger to studies of dietary supplements and cancer that turn out to be a bust, including studies of vitamin E.

J.ChanEarlier, as a graduate student, Chan investigated vitamin E. Working with Harvard epidemiologist Walter Willet, she found no epidemiological evidence that vitamin E prevented prostate cancer in men generally. However, the researchers did see a trend toward fewer prostate cancers in smokers.

June Chan, ScD

Chan remains optimistic about identifying dietary and lifestyle interventions that prove beneficial to health.

“Healthy eating habits, regular physical activity, not smoking, and avoiding overweight and obesity remain important tools for us to prevent several major chronic diseases,” she says.

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