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Does Vitamin E Cause Prostate Cancer

How A Myth Gets Made

Large doses of vitamin E boost prostate cancer risk

First things first: Theres no evidence that dietary vitamin E causes prostate or any other kind of cancer. But all it took was one clinical trial showing an increased risk of prostate cancer in men taking vitamin E supplements for mainstream medicine to jump to the conclusion that men should never take this essential nutrient.

Granted, it was a massive trial , involving scientists from the National Cancer Institute , and was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association .

So, you can see why it was taken so seriously.

There was just one small problem: The supplement they used was junka synthetic version of just one single form of vitamin E.

As Dr. Marc Micozzi notes in his Insiders Ultimate Guide to Perfect Prostate Health, vitamin E is made up of eight different active compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols .

But he adds, its all Greek to the boys in the FDA fraternity. They dont even recognize seven of these vitamin E compounds.

In fact, according to the FDA, the only active vitamin E compound is alpha-tocopherol.

This nutrient is the so-called vitamin E that is most often used in studies. But considering that the vitamin E you get from foods, like nuts, seeds, spinach, and broccoli, contains all eight active compounds, why would you put stock in a study that only uses one of them, and not the other seven?

Why Did It Make Headlines In The First Place

In this study, we’ve got men taking a poorly-absorbed synthetic vitamin to prevent prostate cancer.

We’ve also got a 17 percent increase in RELATIVE risk for prostate cancer.

Plus, two other major studies — cited within the JAMA report — show no increase in prostate cancer risk for men taking vitamin E.

So why was such a big deal made about this study? Why did it even make headlines?

Fear sells.

Plus, each time a bogus study like this makes headlines and strikes fear in the minds of readers, we inch dangerously closer to increased regulation. The average reader doesn’t know the difference between absolute and relative risk. They have no idea the study used a synthetic vitamin.

So they think, “gee, maybe we should let the government take more control of natural supplements.”

If this trend continues, I fear one day you’ll need a doctor’s prescription to pick up a bottle of vitamin C. Won’t that make Big Pharma happy!?

Stock up now.

Suppressing Arachidonic Acid Byproducts

Health-conscious people take nutrients like fish oil, curcumin, and lycopene that help to lower 5-LOX activity in the body.84,89-96

A rat study showed that gamma tocopherol, but not alpha tocopherol, exhibited potent reduction of PGE2 and leukotriene B4, powerful pro-inflammatory end products of the COX-2 and 5-LOX pathways, respectively.97 A review of several studies indicates that combinations of alpha and gamma tocopherol optimally reduce end products of arachidonic acid breakdown in the body.18,98,99

Extracts from the boswellia plant selectively inhibit 5-lipoxygenase .100,101 A novel boswellia extract has been developed that is52% more bioavailable compared to standard boswellia extracts102 thus providing a greater opportunity to suppress deadly 5-LOX and other cancer-promoting byproducts of arachidonic acid.

As humans age, overexpression of the enzymes 5-LOX and COX-2 typically occurs. For maturing males, excess levels of these pro-inflammatory enzymes may contribute to the epidemic of prostate cancer observed after the age of 60.103

Based on the cumulative knowledge that 5-LOX, COX-2, and their breakdown products can promote the invasion and metastasis of prostate cancer cells, it would appear advantageous to take aggressive steps to suppress these lethal enzymes.

Read Also: Major Causes Of Prostate Cancer

Vitamin E Increases Prostate Cancer Risk: Study

Vitamin E supplements increase the risk of prostate cancer in healthy, middle-aged and older men, according to research published today that strengthens the evidence that some micronutrients, often marketed as antioxidants, are ineffective at preventing cancer and might even do harm.

Men who took 400 international units of vitamin E daily much more than youd typically find in a multivitamin — had higher rates prostate cancer than did men who took a placebo, according to the research, an updated review of the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, or SELECT.

Supplements are widely used in the absence of evidence they do any good, said Howard Parnes, chief of the prostate research group at the National Cancer Institute and a co-author of the paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“This should be a wake-up call for people taking lots of over-the-counter supplements on the basis of what may seem to be a good idea, Parnes said. Anything that has biological activity could have an ill effect, as well as a beneficial one.

Adding to concern for men, the study follows a new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation that the PSA blood test should no longer be part of routine screening for prostate cancer because the test may cause unnecessary harm.

Antioxidants, researchers suspect, play a key role by protecting DNA from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable and potentially damaging molecules.

Lipid Peroxidation And Protein Carbonylation

Multivitamin use may reduce prostate Ca recurrence

Protein carbonyl groups: the assay was performed in accordance with the method described by Levine and colleagues with slight changes. The carbonyl groups were determined following spectrophotometrically their covalent reaction with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine , that leads to the formation of a yellow 2,4-dinitrophenyl hydrazone by-product. The cytosolic proteins were precipitated with cold trichloroacetic acid 20% and then collected by 10min centrifugation . A solution of 10mM DNPH in 2N HCl was added to the protein. Blanks were added with only 2N HCl. Samples were incubated for 1hour at room temperature vortexing every 10min and then precipitated with TCA 20% and centrifuged. Pellets were washed three times with a solution of ethanol and ethyl acetate and suspended in PBS buffer . All samples were centrifuged and the absorbance of the supernatant was read at 390nm .

Malonyldialdehyde levels: MDA levels in the microsomal fraction were determined according to the method of Esterbauer and Zollner. Samples were diluted in a solution with 1mL acetic acid 20%, 1.5mL of thiobarbituric acid 0.8%, 0.2mL of sodium dodecyl sulfate 8%. The mixture was heated in a boiling water bath at 95°C for 1h. A calibration curve was carried out using 1,1,3,3-tetramethoxypropane dissolved in water and properly diluted. Absorbance was read at 535nm. Results were expressed as moles of MDA h1 mg protein1.

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The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:

PDQ® Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. PDQ Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated < MM/DD/YYYY> . Available at: . Accessed < MM/DD/YYYY> .

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Screening For And Diagnosing Prostate Cancer

Some doctors implement routine screens for prostate cancer after youre 50 years old. The digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen blood test are two initial tests that help your doctor diagnose prostate cancer.

During a DRE, your doctor will insert their finger into your rectum to check the size, shape, and texture of your prostate.

Your doctor will likely perform a PSA blood test during the same appointment. This test checks the level of PSA in your bloodstream. The higher the PSA level, the more likely it is that you have a problem with your prostate.

If your rectal exam or PSA tests are abnormal, your doctor may order an ultrasound or a prostate biopsy to assess whether you have prostate cancer.

research shows that vitamin D slows prostate cancer growth, safety concerns exist. High doses of vitamin D may cause hypercalcemia. This occurs when you have too much calcium in your blood. Too much vitamin D may also worsen some pre-existing conditions.

A less toxic form of vitamin D may be a treatment option, but more research is necessary to prove its effective and safe. As a result, vitamin D isnt an established treatment for prostate cancer at this time.

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Selenium Vitamin E Supplements Increase Prostate Cancer Risk

  • By Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

When the SELECT trial started in 2001, there were high hopes it would prove that taking vitamin E or selenium could help prevent prostate cancer. The newest results from the trial show just the oppositethat taking selenium or vitamin E can actually increase the odds of developing prostate cancer.

Bottom line: men shouldnt take selenium or vitamin E as a way to prevent prostate cancer, or anything else for that matter.

I counsel all of my patients to absolutely avoid any dietary supplements that contain selenium or vitamin Eincluding multivitamins, says prostate cancer expert Dr. Marc Garnick, a clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, an oncologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and editor in chief of Harvards Annual Report on Prostate Diseases.

But Why We Consider Vitamin E In The First Place

Vitamin E Can Cause Prostate Cancer

Vitamin E is a potent fat-soluble antioxidant that has been hypothesized to decrease the risk of cancers. Antioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals, highly reactive species that oxidize DNA, proteins, and lipids inside our cells and tissues potentially cause damage and contribute to various diseases.

In particular, oxidative DNA damage may cause mutations that increase the risk of certain cancers including prostate cancer. Free radical exposure is undoubtedly an unavoidable aspect of our lives, as these are produced by many biological processes, such as cellular respiration, inflammation, and particularly cigarette smoke.

However, antioxidants produced in the body and ingested in the diet are essential to reduce oxidative stress and prevent the harmful effects of free radicals.

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The Atbc Study: Beta Carotene

The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention trial was one of the first investigations to cast doubt on the value of antioxidants. ATBC was designed to test the belief that antioxidants would protect men from lung cancer. The subjects were 29,133 Finnish male smokers between the ages of 50 and 69. Starting in 1985, the men were randomly assigned to receive one of four regimens: 50 mg of alpha-tocopherol, the most common form of vitamin E, 20 mg of beta carotene, another potent antioxidant, both antioxidant vitamins, or a placebo. The trial concluded in 1993. When the results were announced a year later, they sounded an alarm: Beta carotene produced an 18% increase in the risk of lung cancer and a less significant increase in the risk of prostate cancer.

Rna Extraction From Rwpe

Total RNA from vitamin E-treated RWPE-1 cells was extracted using Trizol reagent in accordance to the manufacturers instructions. DNase I treatment was adopted to remove any genomic DNA contamination. Extracted RNA samples were reverse-transcripted using using RevertAid First Strand cDNA Synthesis Kits . CYPs, COX-2 and -actin mRNA levels were analyzed by real-time PCR using SYBR- Select Master Mix and StepOne PlusTM system . The melting curve data were collected to check PCR specificity. Each cDNA sample was analyzed in triplicate. Target mRNA levels were normalized against -actin mRNA Relative expressions were calculated using the formula 22Ct values . Primers were purchased from IDT technologies . All samples containing 200ng of cDNA were run in triplicate. The thermal cycler was programmed as follows: 30s at 95°C and 40 cycles of 5s at 95°C and 20s at 60°C for amplification.

Primer sequences:









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Synthetic Alpha Tocopherol Shown To Increase Prostate Cancer Risk

Life Extension® long ago warned about the DNA-damaging effects of synthetic alpha tocopherol and our worst fears have been realized. A recent study showed that men taking this incomplete form of vitamin E had a 17% increased risk of prostate cancer. Find out how this study that used only alpha without gamma tocopherol was designed to fail from the outset.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in May 2022. Written by: William Faloon.

Longtime members of the Life Extension Foundation® have heard our warnings against synthetic alpha tocopherol many times.

In 1997, we reported that taking only the alpha tocopherol form of vitamin Edisplaces critically important gamma tocopherol in the body. By displacing gamma tocopherol, we feared that high doses of alphatocopherol could increase cancer risks.

In fact, three years after Life Extensions first warning, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health released the results of a huge study . The findings showed that men with the highest gamma tocopherol blood levels had a fivefold reduction in prostate cancer risk. This same study showed that selenium and alpha tocopherol also reduced prostate cancer risk, but only when gamma tocopherol levels were high.1 Confirmatory studies document higher levels of gamma tocopherol to be strongly associated with reduced cancer risks.2-5

This costly government-funded study was initiated in the year 2001.

Prostate Cancer Outcomes And Lifestyle

Prostate Cancer

For several years Chan has been working with UCSF urologists to investigate whether lifestyle factors can affect cancer outcomes and quality of life in prostate cancer patients.

There will be nearly 241,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States in 2011, and more than 33,000 men will die of the disease, according to American Cancer Society estimates.

It has become increasingly important to identify what aspects of diet, exercise, or other lifestyle practices may improve cancer survivorship, Chan says.

Prostate cancer is often a relatively slow-growing tumor compared to tumors that arise in other organs. We wanted to address the question of whether even after diagnosis, lifestyle changes could have an impact especially because a cancer diagnosis often motivates people to make changes.

Chans recent research has supported this hypothesis. With colleagues at UCSF and at Harvard, she reported that among men diagnosed with prostate cancer localized within the gland, eating poultry without the skin, red meat and fish was not associated with worsening disease. However, in the same study eating eggs or poultry with skin might have increased the likelihood that prostate cancer would worsen.

Other lifestyle factors, including smoking and exercise, also matter for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Biking, playing tennis, jogging, or swimming for more than three hours every week may substantially lessen the likelihood of dying from the disease, Chan found.

Read Also: Side Effects Of Prostate Supplements

Risks Of Excessive Vitamin Use

For every 1,000 men who took vitamin E supplements for seven years, there were 76 prostate cancers in the vitamin E group and 65 cancers in the placebo group.

The 11 additional cancers represented a 17% increase in risk.

American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis W. Brawley, MD, says the surprising findings from the SELECT trial should serve as a cautionary tale.

“It is now clear that we need to be very cautious in our advocacy of taking excessive amounts of any vitamin,” he tells WebMD. “Taking a multivitamin every day may be OK, but we now know that taking excessive amounts of vitamins can be dangerous.”

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Why Did They Look At Vitamin E In The First Place

Vitamin E functions as a powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant in our cells and tissues. Antioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals, highly reactive species that oxidize DNA, proteins, and lipids inside our cells, potentially causing damage and contributing to disease. In particular, oxidative DNA damage may cause mutations and, hence, increase the risk of certain cancers, including prostate cancer. Free-radical exposure is an unavoidable aspect of our lives, as these radicals are produced as a natural by-product of many biological processes, such as cellular respiration and inflammation, in addition to coming from our environment, particularly cigarette smoke. Antioxidants produced in the body and ingested in the diet are essential to reduce oxidative stress and counteract the potentially harmful effects of free radicals.

Some studies support a beneficial role for vitamin E in cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention. For example, the Womens Health Study followed 39,876 women who took 600 IU natural vitamin E every other day for ten years. The investigators found that supplemental vitamin E decreased cardiovascular-related deaths by 24% but had no effect on cardiovascular events, overall cancer incidence, or cancer-related deaths. In general, studies have reported mixed results, and the impact of vitamin E supplementation on chronic disease risk remains controversial.

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Disappointing Clinical Trials For Vitamins

Supplements, despite promising signs from earlier epidemiological studies, have fared poorly in controlled clinical trials, in which participants are randomly assigned to different treatment arms. These controlled clinical trials remain the gold standard by which to evaluate any health claims.

An early disappointing milestone in anti-oxidant supplement research was a 1994 study of vitamin E and beta-carotene as a means to lower lung cancer risks among smokers. Daily supplementation with 50 units of Vitamin E had no benefit, while beta-carotene was associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.

However, in that same clinical trial researchers observed that there were more than 30 percent fewer cases of prostate cancer and prostate cancer deaths among the men who took the vitamin E supplements. This association spurred interest in launching the SELECT trial, focused specifically on prostate cancer.

Although there were more cancers among men in SELECT who took supplements, its too soon to say whether Vitamin E or selenium supplementation will lead to more prostate cancer deaths among the study participants, Chan says. More cancers does not necessarily mean more deadly cancers.

The majority of these cancers were earlier-stage disease detected by PSA screening. It is likely that a fair proportion of these are indolent tumors meaning cancers that would not cause morbidity or mortality if left undiagnosed.


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