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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Study: Foods rich in vitamin E offer some lung cancer protection

WASHINGTON (AP) - A diet rich in vitamin E foods such as nuts and whole grains can lower the risk of lung cancer among smokers by about 20 percent, a new study says.
In the study of more than 29,000 male smokers in Finland, researchers found that those who had high blood levels of alpha-tocopherol, the main form of vitamin E, reduced their incidence of lung cancer by 19 percent to 23 percent.
The benefits were most dramatic, the study found, among men under age 60 and among light smokers who had been using cigarettes for less than 40 years. The reduction in lung cancer risk in these groups was from 40 percent to 50 percent.
But despite the encouraging finding, said Dr. Demetrius Albanes of the National Cancer Institute, the most beneficial health action smokers can take is still the same: Stop smoking.
"We have to emphasize that not only for lung cancer, but for oral cancer, pancreas cancer, kidney cancer and a bunch of other cancers, stopping smoking is crucial," said Albanes, the senior author of the study being published Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
In the study, which lasted for almost eight years, researchers took periodic blood samples to measure the levels of alpha-tocopherol, the most active form of vitamin E in humans. The levels of alpha-tocopherol were then linked to health outcomes among the men in the study. There were 1,144 cases of lung cancer diagnosed in the group during the study.
The lung cancer rate reduced among men with the highest levels of alpha-tocopherol, said Albanes, and the cancer protection was most pronounced among men with the shortest history of smoking who also had high vitamin E levels.
Although the new study involved only smokers and lung cancer, earlier studies have shown that healthy levels of vitamin E give some protection against heart disease, stroke and some other types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.
Albanes said the proven benefits came only from a balanced diet that included food rich in vitamin E, he said. The researchers drew no conclusions about the effect of vitamin pills taken by some of the men in the study.
In effect, he said the proven benefits of vitamin E come from eating the right foods, not from popping vitamin pills.
"We need more studies to compare supplements with natural diet sources of vitamin E," he said, noting that there are still uncertainties about the comparative value of vitamin pills vs. nutrients absorbed naturally from foods.
For instance, some studies have shown that beta carotene, an antioxidant found in foods such as carrots, can help prevent some forms of cancer. Yet, when beta carotene pills were given to the group of Finnish smokers, the rate of lung cancer actually increased by 16 percent.
Albanes said that vitamin E-rich foods include soybean oil and other seed oils; nuts, particularly almonds, filberts, hazelnuts and walnuts, sunflower seeds and whole grains, including wheat germ.

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