Vitamin E and selenium causing prostate cancer?

Bad shocking studies grab media headlines. For this one study I know there are many other amazing studies showing omega 3 wonderful health benefits but they will not get lime light for awhile.

Having said mentioned all of that, this simply is one of those studies that has found a negative association between high Vit E levels and selenium in  prostate cancer sufferers due to supplementation (NOT FOOD)! And is something to be considered when taking Vit E.

Let’s critique the “high omega 3 causes prostate” innuendo, new Select study in a different context….

This is the opening to the abstract to the JCNI paper (with full paper here).

Studies of dietary ω-3 fatty acid intake and prostate cancer risk are inconsistent; however, recent large prospective studies have found increased risk of prostate cancer among men with high blood concentrations of long-chain ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids ([LCω-3PUFA] 20:5ω3; 22:5ω3; 22:6ω3]. This case–cohort study examines associations between plasma phospholipid fatty acids and prostate cancer risk among participants in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial.

It showed that men with higher blood level of omega 3 PUFAs did have a higher incidence of prostate cancer. The study doesn’t know why yet – why this happens but do we need to be concerned?

The study nicknamed SELECT was designed to see if selenium and Vit E taken together or individually would lead to a 25% reduction in prostate cancer.  This was NOT proven. The original findings were published in JAMA in 2009.

Five years on the latest up date actually showed higher incidence of prostate cancer in men taking Vit E and selenium either in combination or separately.

A few points of interest:

1. The study hasn’t commented on diets of these individuals. Were the placebo group eating the same foods as those on the supplements? This will impact incredibly on results

2. I don’t use Vitamin E to treat or prevent cancers. The research around this vitamin has always been questionable. I am sure it is safe in foods but not necessarily all it promises as a supplement.To avoid prostate cancer, substances such as lycopene, zinc, estrogen lowering are proven strategies. This is how I manage the disease. To then make an extrapolation that natural medicines cause prostate cancer is WRONG and very misleading. I hope no one does this.

3. Vitamin E is one source of omega 3. 

This is from the senior author of the study:

“The consistency of these findings suggests that these fatty acids are involved in prostate tumorigenesis and recommendations to increase long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake, in particular through supplementation, should consider its potential risks,” the study authors wrote in the paper.

Kristal said the findings in both studies were surprising because omega-3 fatty acids are believed to have a host of positive health effects based on their anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation plays a role in the development and growth of many cancers, Kristal said.

It is unclear why high levels of omega-3 fatty acids would increase prostate cancer risk, but the replication of this finding in two large studies indicates the need for further research.”

4. Equally as dangerous is people making the link that omega 3s cause cancer or are useless across a range of diseases. This study did not prove this.

Infact this is a select angle of one disease looking at two specific supplements only.

The Select study did not look at food sources of these naturally occurring vitamins/minerals, only supplementation.

For more information read this well written appraisal by the National Cancer Institute or the designing of the study is here and recent results here.

I must say I have never seen the point of taking Vit E (not even in heart disease). I prefer other supplements BUT overriding all of that I believe a well rounded organic eating plan is superior to any supplements. Eat mediteranean style, you will receive lots of naturally occurring omega 3s – all in balance, the way nature intended. This is a previous blog I have written on the Med diet.

Leave your comments and thoughts below…