A Troubling Link Between Vitamin E and Prostate Cancer

By Charmaine Gooden

Researchers studying vitamin E supplements as a way to reduce men’s risk of prostate cancer found they actually had the opposite effect, increasing the risk slightly, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study, called SELECT (the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial), found that men who took 400 IU (international units) of vitamin E each day were 17 per cent more likely to develop prostate cancer than non-vitamin-E users, a finding that was statistically significant. There was no increased risk of prostate cancer when vitamin E and selenium were taken together; suggesting that selenium somehow dampens the harm caused by vitamin E.

What’s troubling is that doctors continued to see this risk several years after the men had stopped taking the supplement, suggesting the nutrient may affect the body long after it’s been taken. Surveys are showing that over half of men over the age 60 are taking supplements, many of the them containing high doses of Vitamin E, with men often thinking that more is better. The science is showing that’s not always the case. Men may want to be careful about what they take while scientist continue to follow those in the study to see if Vitamin E continues to have this surprising and unwanted side effects.