Vitamin E Supplementation Decreases Risk Of Prostate Cancer In Smokers

Some red pillsA form of Vitamin E known as alpha-tocopherol may reduce both the risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer in smokers according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study, which was published back in 1998 by researchers at the Department of Public Health in Helsinki, Finland, looked at the effect of daily supplementation of 20mg of beta-carotene and/or 50mg of alpha-tocopherol on the risk of prostate cancer. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that is converted by the body into Vitamin A. Alpha-tocopherol is the most common form of Vitamin E and is also the most beneficially in terms of antioxidant activity. It is also the form commonly used in Vitamin E supplements.

The study involved 29,133 male smokers aged between 50 and 69 who were followed for a period of between 5 and 8 years. Over the course of the study, 246 of the participants were diagnosed with prostate cancer resulting in 62 deaths from the disease.

The researchers found that the men who received 50mg of Vitamin E a day were 32% less likely to develop prostate cancer and 41% less likely to die from prostate cancer. On the other hand, beta-carotene had little effect on prostate cancer risk, and in fact the beta-carotene group experienced a small, statistically insignificant increase in the risk of prostate cancer. Neither beta-carotene nor Vitamin E appeared to increase the time between diagnosis of prostate cancer and subsequent death from the disease.

It is believed that Vitamin E may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer by improving the function of the immune system and by reducing free radical damage to DNA and proteins through its antioxidant properties.

Food sources rich in Vitamin E include (mg of alpha-tocopherol per serving included in brackets): wheat germ oil (20.3mg), almonds (7.4mg), peanuts (2.2mg), avocado (2.0mg), broccoli (1.5mg), kiwifruit (1.1mg), and spinach (0.6mg).

Prostate cancer is currently the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men with 1 in 6 developing the disease during their lifetimes. When detected at an early stage, prostate cancer carries a very good prognosis with a five year survival rate of over 99.5%.

Although not as strongly related to smoking as some other forms of cancer, most studies find a moderate increase in prostate cancer risk amongst smokers. This study, which involved more than 47,000 men from the USA, found a 81% increase in the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer and a 106% increase in the risk of dying from the disease for smokers compared to non-smokers.