Cancer Center Announcement

NIH-funded Study Shows Increased Prostate Cancer Risk from Vitamin E Supplements

October 13, 2011

Earlier this week, the NCI released an announcement on new findings related to the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). Researchers saw a 17 percent increase of prostate cancers in men who took the daily allotted 400 international units (IUs) of vitamin E versus men who took a placebo. These results were published in the October 12, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Eric Klein, chair of the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and study co-chair for SELECT, recommends that men who participated in SELECT stop taking the dosage of vitamin E and continue seeing their primary care physician or urologist.

SELECT researchers have now turned their focus to identifying the link between vitamin E and the increase of prostate cancer.

Dr. Li Li, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, CWRU and UHCMC, and Associate Director for Prevention for the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, feels that the SELECT results are not surprising or unexpected. "A number of chemoprevention trials conducted in the past 10-15 years have either failed to show beneficial effects of nutrient supplement on cancer or cardiovascular disease risk, or show increased risks of these diseases," he commented.

"The SELECT trial is valuable in clearly demonstrating the harmful effect of vitamin E and no beneficial effect of selenium on prostate cancer development," said Dr. Li. "However, it reinforces the message, together with a number of earlier nutrient supplementation trials, that the single nutrient 'magic bullet' reductionist's approach to cancer and heart disease prevention is not working, and perhaps fundamentally wrong."

Dr. Li commented that nutrient supplements cannot replace healthy behaviors, such as maintaining an active lifestyle, eating a balanced and healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.