Foods and Vitamins Rich in Antioxidants do not Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

Susan T. Mayne

Men who consume foods and vitamins high in vitamin E, Beta-carotene and vitamin C do not lower their risk of prostate cancer, Yale School of Medicine researchers report recently in the Journal of National Cancer Institute (JNCI). 

Led by former Yale Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH) doctoral student Victoria Kirsh, who is now at Cancer Care Ontario, the team found that while there was no significant association between the use of antioxidant supplementation and the reduced risk of prostate cancer, there was an association between high-dose supplemental vitamin E intake and a reduced risk of prostate cancer in smokers.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Susan T. Mayne, professor of epidemiology in the Division of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at EPH, and investigators at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as part of the Yale University – National Cancer Institute Partnership Training Program. The Training Program is the only one of its kind and is designed to support students while they train in modern methodologies for evaluating lifestyle determinants of human cancer risk, with an emphasis on nutritional, environmental, and occupational determinants, including their interactions with genetic factors. Mayne is also associate director of the Yale Cancer Center.

“The study is unique in that it was carried out in the screening arm of a randomized trial to evaluate Prostate-Specific Antigen test (PSA) and digital rectal examination (DRE) as prostate cancer modalities,” said Kirsh, who conducted the research as part of her dissertation at Yale. “This helped to avoid bias that could result from men with healthier diets seeking prostate screening examinations.”

Kirsh added, “There has been definite interest in the use of antioxidant micronutrients to help reduce the risk of cancer. In keeping with the results of previous trials, vitamin E supplementation was related to a reduced risk of prostate cancer in smokers, although the reasons for that benefit remain unclear since smoking itself is not strongly related to prostate cancer.”

Other researchers on the study include Richard B. Hayes, Nilanjan Chatterjee, Amy F. Subar,  L. Beth Dixon, Demetrius Albanes, M.D., Gerald L. Andriole, M.D., Donald A. Urban, M.D., and Ulrike Peters.

Citation: JNCI, 98(4): 245-254, February 15, 2006.

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326