Does taking Vitamin E supplements prevent prostate cancer?

In the mid-1990’s, two medical studies that were looking at the effects of vitamin and mineral supplements on cancer rates came on a finding, quite by happenstance during the post-study data analysis. It seemed that men who took Vitamin E supplements had a lower rate of prostate cancer. While neither study was particularly designed to investigate prostate cancer issues, the finding generated a great deal of excitment, as prostate cancer is very common in middle-aged and older men. Suddenly, men everywhere were taking Vitamin E and selenium, for prostate health

In the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)are two major studies, which were designed to look specifically at this issue. The first study, known as “SELECT”, looked at 35,000 men in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and compared the effects of 400 units per day of Vitamin E and/or Selenium supplements versus placebo. The second study, “PHS-II”, looked at 14,600 American physicians over a 10 year period, and was also a randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled study.

Bad news: unfortunately, neither of these two new, powerful studies found any significant reduction in prostate cancer rates due to Vitamin E, Vitamin C or Selenium supplements in the dosages given.

It seems that the positive results of the earlier studies were a chance occurrence – a fluke, if you will. Sometimes that happens – which is why scientists always double-check their initial findings with further studies. Given the large size of these two new studies, and their careful design, it is unlikely that an effect of the supplements, good or bad, would be missed.

So, it’s back to the drawing board…guys, you can stop taking the selenium and Vitamin E now.

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