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Vitamin E May Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk in Smokers

A new study suggests that higher serum alpha-tocopherol concentration is associated with decreased risk of developing prostate cancer, particularly among smokers.

Vitamin E compounds are thought to have potential prostate cancer preventive effects, but serologic investigations of tocopherols, and randomized controlled trials of supplementation in particular, have been inconsistent. Given the biological plausibility that vitamin E could impact cancer risk through several mechanisms, scientists in US and UK recently conducted a nested case-control study to investigate the relationship between serum alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol and prostate cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO).

This trial examined 680 prostate cancer cases and 824 frequency-matched controls. Serum concentrations of alpha- and gamma-tocopherol from participants were determined at baseline and in subsequent screening exams. The trial foud that higher serum alpha-tocopherol was associated with significantly lower prostate cancer risk. By contrast, risk was non-significantly elevated among men with higher gamma-tocopherol concentrations. The inverse association between prostate cancer and alpha-tocopherol was restricted to current and recently former smokers, but was only slightly stronger for smokers with aggressive disease.

Cigarette smokers have increased oxidative stress, and although circulating tocopherol concentrations tend not to differ between smokers and nonsmokers, smokers have increased rates of a-tocopherol disappearance. Therefore, the stronger risk reduction with higher serum a-tocopherol concentrations among smokers is biologically plausible.

Results from this trial suggest that higher alpha-tocopherol may be beneficial with respect to prostate cancer risk among smokers. Further studies are warranted for a more complete understanding of the vitamin E-prostate cancer relation.

Weinstein SJ, et al. (2012). PLoS ONE 7(7): e40204. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040204

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